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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

17 Killed in Fresh Gujarat Violence

AHMADABAD, India -- A fresh wave of clashes between Hindus and Muslims in India's western state of Gujarat has left 17 dead, officials said Monday.

At least 91 others were seriously injured, with burns and bullet wounds, said officers at the police control room in Ahmadabad, the state's commercial capital. The new religious killings brought the death toll to 850 in the country's worst violence in a decade that began Feb. 27 when Muslims set fire to a train carrying Hindus returning from a pilgrimage.

Those killed Sunday included nine Muslims who died in Ahmadabad when police fired into a swelling mob on the Hindu festival of Ramnavami, the birthday of the religion's supreme deity, Rama.

According to the police in the state capital, Gandhinagar, groups were assembling for the Hindu festival in the Gomtipur neighborhood when clashes started between Hindu and Muslim neighbors. Stones were thrown and petrol bombs were hurled from both sides, and police said they had to fire to stop the violence.

Two Hindus were killed in clashes with Muslims, and another died when hit by a petrol bomb, officers said on condition of anonymity. A police officer died after the crowd turned on him with knives.

Two other people were killed in the city, but their religion was not immediately known, police said. The remaining two deaths occurred in the Kheda District, about 32 kilometers north of Ahmadabad.

There were long lines Monday outside V.S. Hospital, one of the largest in the city, as the injured waited to be treated.

The fresh bloodshed came as Defense Minister George Fernandes was in the desert state in an effort to quell the violence. There had been relative calm for several days in communally sensitive Gujarat, the home state of the late Mohandas Gandhi, India's independence leader who preached peace and equality of religions.

After the Feb. 27 train fire, retaliatory rampages erupted across the state. Mostly Muslims have died as Hindus have set them on fire, while destroying their homes and businesses.

The inability of the state government to stop the rioting, and allegations that police have supported the Hindu rioters, have provoked widespread demands for the dismissal of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the top elected official.

Work in parliament stalled last week due to the opposition demand for action against Modi. Both houses of parliament were adjourned again Monday when the opposition began shouting out for Modi's sacking, a debate on Gujarat and a vote on whether to censure the state's government.

The opposition blames the Hindu-nationalist party of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and its ideological affiliates for the carnage.

Vajpayee, at a public rally in the northeastern state of Assam on Sunday, told the crowd that the Muslim murders would be punished.

"The country belongs to people of all religious, ethnic and linguistic groups," the prime minister was quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times newspaper. "My government will ensure their protection."