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Dozens wounded in gunfire at Sikh temple

Video by Sarah DRURY

Latest update : 2009-05-25

Austrian emergency rescue services said on Sunday that a group entered a Sikh temple in Vienna and opened fire, leaving about 30 people wounded. Local police say the perpetrators have been arrested.

AFP - Sikh followers clashed with knives and at least one gun at a temple in Vienna on Sunday, injuring some 30 people in a dispute between rival religious communities, police and witnesses said.
The violence at the temple broke out around 1:30 pm (1130 GMT) and saw the perpetrators pull out knives and a gun as a guru visiting from India gave a sermon.
Others in the 200-strong audience at the temple pounced on the attackers and subdued them, police said. All of the attackers, who a witness said were wearing yellow and blue turbans, were arrested.
"Six people did not agree (with the sermon)," police spokesman Michael Takacs told Austrian public radio.
"One drew a firearm, the others knives. The six people were overpowered by members of the community and seriously injured."
One of the wounded attackers was fighting for his life after being shot in the head, said Takacs.
Some victims were hit in the stomach and legs by bullets, and the injured were taken away aboard three helicopters for treatment.
"I was outside when it happened and I only heard the shots," a 21-year-old witness said. "My uncle was hit by a knife on his left side, another man in the eye."
A total of 11 people were seriously injured, said Bernhard Segal, a rescue services spokesman. Besides the attacker, four others were in critical condition, he said.
All the injured were men and they did not include the visiting guru, Shri Guru Ravidas Sabha, police said. Witnesses, however, said the guru had been injured along with another religious figure.
Officers had recovered at least three spent cartridges inside the temple and sealed off the surrounding area.
The violence resulted from a dispute between different temples in the Austrian capital, Kumar Balvinder, vice president of the temple where the attack occurred, told Austrian news agency APA.
The temple, which opened in December 2005, has protested the caste system that remains popular among some Sikhs. It has also been accused of not strictly following Sikh traditions.
Balvinder said that the head of another temple in Vienna had warned that violence could break out due to the guru's visit. He added that the information had been passed along to police.
Followers of the temple where the incident occurred had previously clashed with several other Sikh temples in the city, and other communities were opposed to the arrival of the guru, one person at scene, Jasuf Kalder, told APA.
"All the people implicated (in the incident) have been arrested," a police spokesman in Vienna told AFP, without specifying the number of arrests.
According to the latest figures, the Sikh religious community has tens of thousands of followers in Austria and some 25 million worldwide, most of them in northern India.
Their religious tradition requires men to wear a turban and carry a ceremonial dagger.

Date created : 2009-05-24