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Biker gangs raid 10 churches

Bangalore, Sept. 14: Miscreants on motorcycles today simultaneously stormed prayer halls at 10 churches in BJP-ruled Karnataka, the second state after Orissa to see a communal flare-up in the last three weeks.

The attackers struck between 10.15 and 11am in Mangalore district, damaging the Holy Cross, smashing sacred figurines and pulling down other structures.

Similar attacks were also reported on two churches in Chikmagalur and Udupi districts. Eight persons, including two pastors, were injured in all.

Mangalore police declined comment on who the miscreants could be or what their motives were but a PTI report said the hand of Bajrang Dal activists was suspected.

The attacks, an embarrassment to B.S. Yedyurappa’s 106-day-old BJP government, come three weeks after Orissa’s Kandhamal district erupted in communal violence. The BJP is a junior partner of the ruling Biju Janata Dal in the state.

The Orissa flare-up started with suspected VHP activists burning alive a woman employee of a missionary school hostel to protest the killing of a leader but later snowballed into attacks on churches and entire Christian-dominated villages. About a dozen persons were killed.

In Mangalore city, groups of Christians led by local politicians came out on the streets and staged protests in the evening. In some places, mobs pelted the police with stones and damaged jeeps. The police wielded lathis and lobbed tear-gas shells to disperse the protesters.

A stunned district administration has declared night curfew in Mangalore and Udupi districts for the next three days. Section 144 has also been clamped.

A.M. Prasad, the Mangalore range inspector general, said a few persons had been detained for questioning. “We are investigating the attacks. We appeal to the people to show restraint,” he said.

The churches attacked today are on Panner Road, in Kooloor, Thoklunta, Kadabu, Kodikal and Madantyar in Mangalore city and in Moodibidri and Byandoor nearby.

Christian schools in Bangalore had stayed shut for a day on August 29 in protest against the Orissa violence. The BJP government had served showcause notices on them but the schools refused to apologise.

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