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India: Assam clashes kill 19 as thousands flee rioting

Clashes in the Indian state of Assam left 19 people dead while thousands fled their homes.

Assam 19 killed and thousands flee july 23 2012Enlarge
Bodo tribal people flee their homes in Kokrajhar district, about 230 kms from Guwahati, the capital city of the northeastern state of Assam during violent clashes on July 23, 2012. Police issued shoot-on-sight orders on July 23 in a bid to quell violent clashes between Bodo tribal groups and Muslim settlers over land rights in India's remote northeast that have prompted thousands of villagers to flee their homes and left 19 people dead. (STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)

Tens of thousands of people fled their homes in the Indian state of Assam after clashes killed 19 people, according to the BBC.

The police have shoot-on-sight orders to deal with the violent clashes which erupted over the weekend between indigenous tribes people and Muslim settlers, according to The New York Daily News.

The police fired warning shots to disperse armed groups on Monday, setting fire to houses, Reuters reported. A senior police officer said, "We saw miscreants burning down village after village on Monday."

The fighting in Kokrajhar claimed 15 lives while four were killed in Chirang.

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Inspector General of Police, Bodoland Territorial Area District, S.N. Singh, said, "People have abandoned their houses and shifted to relief camps. Some miscreants from both the communities are also taking advantage of the situation and are setting the abandoned houses ablaze," according to The NY Daily News.

A curfew has been imposed on five "sensitive" areas in the district, according to The NY Daily News.

The BBC noted that there have been tensions between the Muslim Bengali migrants and Assam's tribal people for many years, mostly revolving around land rights. The current unrest was sparked with unidentified men killed four young people on Friday, near an area dominated by the Bodo tribe.

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In retaliation, armed Bodos attacked Muslims. Soon the conflict spread to groups setting property and vehicles on fire and shooting indiscriminately.

The Associated Press reported that at least 10 people in addition to those killed were found to be missing. Police also found bodies hacked by machetes left near river banks and in the jungle.

The AP said India has sent troops to quell the riots and opened shelters for the nearly 30,000 people who fled the conflict.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/india/120723/india-assam-clashes-kill-19-thousands-flee-rioting