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India probes temple massacre

Police guard a Hindu temple belonging to the Swaminarayan sect in Ahmedabad

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CNN's Ram Ramgopal says the two temple gunmen may have been part of a previously unknown Indian Muslim dissident group.
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Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee tours the temple where 32 people were slain by terrorists. CNN's Satinder Bindra reports.
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NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- The Indian government has said it suspects "external' involvement in a temple massacre as Hindu groups call for a nationwide response to the killing of dozens of worshippers.

Stopping short of directly accusing Pakistan, an External Affairs Ministry spokesman cited similarities with earlier civilian attacks blamed on Islamabad.

"There has been a history of Pakistan's involvement in the past in all such terrorist acts," The Press Trust of India reported the spokeswoman as saying.

"There was a pattern about this terrorist attack which is very similar to the attacks on our civilian population in the past. So there is reason for us to be suspicious about external involvement in this matter," she said.

"Pakistan has basically been a one stock shop of terrorism in our region," she said adding "everything was under one roof."

The attackers, however, left behind clues that suggest they could be homegrown Muslim terrorists, acting in retaliation for the deaths of hundreds of their own community in riots earlier this year. (India's cycle of hate)

A nationwide strike was called Thursday as authorities feared revenge riots in the wake of Tuesday's massacre in the city of Gandhinagar.

In New Delhi, police were forced to use water cannons to disperse thousands of people at a violent anti-Pakistan rally.

The activists, led by members of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), were blocked by police as they tried to force their way to the Pakistan High Commission in the Indian capital.

The protests came two days after two suspected Islamic militants stormed the Akshardham temple complex in the capital of western Gujarat state, killing 32 people and injuring more than 70 before being gunned down by elite commandos.

"Our patience is running out. One after another, terrorist incidents are taking place," Vijay Kumar Malhotra, a senior BJP leader, told the crowd. The United States should "declare it [Pakistan] a terrorist state so that these incidents can end," he added.

Elsewhere, India's biggest city Mumbai came to a virtual standstill with shops, schools and businesses closing after Hindu hardliners called the strike.

Thousands of troops were brought into Gujarat in a bid to keep the peace and stop an outbreak of religious rioting. About 3,000 soldiers have been patrolling Gandhinagar.

Violent backlash

start quoteHow long will this bloodbath and violence continue? This should stop now.end quote
-- Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee calls for calm

The raid at Gandhinagar's Akshardham temple is the latest in a series of bloody religious clashes in Gujarat. (Siege gallery)

In 1992, Hindu extremists tore down a 16th century mosque sparking nationwide riots, in which about 3,000 people were killed.

In February this year, Muslim militants set fire to a train leaving the site of that mosque, killing 59 Hindus, and sparking the worst violence in a decade, which left more than 1,000 people, mainly Muslims, dead.

The only incident in Gujarat on Thursday was in the town of Surat where two Muslim men where wounded by attackers in separate stabbing incidents.

Pakistan blamed

Earlier this week Deputy Prime Minister Lal K. Advani said the action was planned by a "neighbor interested in exploiting India's weak spots."

Islamabad has condemned the raid and denied involvement -- saying India is too quick to accuse its neighbor when things go wrong.

A spokesman for Pakistan's Foreign Ministry, Aziz Ahmed Khan, told CNN such attacks do not promote any cause.

"India has this habit of dragging Pakistan into things it is not at all involved in," Khan said.

He said India should look to its own law and order problems, rather than instantly blame Pakistan when things go wrong.

Call for calm

Ahmedabad, Gujarat's commercial capital, ground to a halt with businesses, schools and shops joining the strike
Ahmedabad, Gujarat's commercial capital, ground to a halt with businesses, schools and shops joining the strike

After touring the temple site on Wednesday, Indian leader Vajpayee called for calm.

"How long will this bloodbath and violence continue? This should stop now," Vajpayee said.

"This is not about a party, it is about the country's unity and social security. Whatever has happened here, on the basis of that, we will try and go forward. Brotherhood must remain," he said.

Vajpayee praised the police and security officers involved in the incident and promised a 50,000-rupee payment to victim's families.

Saying that intelligence agencies have already begun investigations, the Indian leader pledged to act against the attack's perpetrators and to "fight and defeat terrorism."

"Whatever I have seen, I will never be able to forget it. This is a temple, a sacred spot, no terrorist should be allowed here," Vajpayee said.

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