Thousands flee Indian villages as clashes kill 18

Jul 23, 2012, 6:45 AM

GAUHATI, India (AP) – Tens of thousands of villagers have fled their homes in fear of rioting that has killed at least 18 people in recent days in the remote northeast Indian state of Assam, police said Monday.

An additional 10 people have gone missing since the clashes over land rights erupted in western Kokrajhar district between the region’s ethnic Bodo community and Muslim settlers, Assam’s police chief J.N. Choudhury said.

The violence has spread to two neighboring districts. Police have discovered bodies hacked by machetes and left in the jungle or along roadsides or river banks.

India has sent troops in to quell the clashes, and opened at least a half-dozen shelters for some 30,000 people, mostly women and children, who have fled their villages in search of protection.

Animosity and accusations of land-stealing have long simmered between Bodos and the thousands of mostly Bengali Muslim settlers, many of whom came from the former East Pakistan before it became Bangladesh in 1971. The two groups have clashed sporadically since 1990s and burned each other’s homes and property, state officials said.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Thousands flee Indian villages as clashes kill 18