Call for calm after Indian train attack
NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has called for calm after up to 50 people were killed when an angry mob set fire to a passenger train in the western state of Gujarat.
The train was carrying dozens of Hindu activists returning from the north Indian town of Ayodhya where they had been demanding the government build a temple on the ruins of a 16th century mosque destroyed nearly a decade ago.
At least 18 others were seriously injured in the attack on the Sabarmati Express service which happened Wednesday morning near the station at town of Godhra.
Officials have refused to confirm the identity of the attackers saying only that a mob of about 2,000 firebombed the train setting four of the cars alight and nearly destroying one of them.
Most of those killed are believed to be Hindu activists. The number of dead is expected to rise.
Calling for calm Vajpayee said the government was "very worried" about the incident and urged all communities to respect the law.
"I will ask people to be patient, they should not get excited or incited," he said.
"The country's unity and the spiritual brotherhood should be maintained at all costs."
The demolition of Ayodhya's Babri mosque in 1992 sparked riots between Hindus and Muslims across the country that left more than 2,000 people dead.
Police say the Hindu activists traveling on the train had earlier confronted a group of Muslims at a nearby train station.
Extra security forces are being rushed to the area with a curfew imposed on the town and police being given orders to shoot on sight any troublemakers.
The government has promised a full-scale inquiry into the attack.
The town of Godhra has a sizeable Muslim population and has been scene to several clashes between Hindus and Muslims in the past.
Police have also been put on heightened alert in Ayodhya where some 11,000 security personnel have already been deployed.
The activists traveling on the train belonged to the World Hindu Council which has called on supporters to travel to Ayodhya to put pressure on the government to allow construction of the temple.
Over the past few days an estimated 15,000 followers have taken up that call and traveled to the town.
The Council has said it plans to begin building work on the temple by March 15, ignoring court orders banning any construction at the site.
Vajpayee has publicly appealed to Hindu activists to call off their campaign saying they should respect legal rulings on the disputed site.
Hindu activists have said they will not wait, but have pledged their campaign to get the temple built will be carried out peacefully.
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