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Indian man in stable condition after being set alight by attackers

A man of Indian descent is in stable condition on Saturday after four men set the 29-year-old alight early on Saturday in a suburb of the Australian city of Melbourne, police said.

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AFP - A man of Indian descent was recovering in hospital on Saturday after a group of men set him on fire in the Australian city of Melbourne, police said, the latest in a string of similar attacks.

Police stressed there was no evidence of a racial motive after four men poured an unidentified fluid on the 29-year-old and set him alight in a suburb of the city, leaving him with 15 percent burns.

It follows the stabbing murder of another Indian in the city last weekend, which prompted a New Delhi newspaper to run a cartoon likening Australian police to the Ku Klux Klan, and in turn an angry reaction by Australian officials.

In the latest incident, the victim was parking his car in a side street after dinner with friends when he was attacked in the early hours of Saturday. His condition was described as stable.

"I believe there's no reason at this stage to consider this in any way racially motivated," detective sergeant Neil Smyth told reporters.

"The circumstances of parking a car randomly on a side street and just some people approaching him are a bit strange and it's highly unlikely, therefore, to be a targeted attack on any individual."

Police have only a vague description of the attackers "which is really just unspecific, just four males", Smyth said. "It is an unusual event."

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the government "condemns all acts of violence in the strongest possible way.... This matter remains under investigation by the Victorian police."

In New Delhi, the Indian government said it was in touch with Australian authorities but urged the media "to exercise utmost restraint" while reporting the incident.

"The Indian high commissioner in Canberra and consul general in Melbourne are following up this matter vigorously with the Australian authorities," foreign ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash said.

"Under the circumstances, the media is advised to exercise utmost restraint in reporting on these sensitive issues, as it could aggravate the situation and could have a bearing on our bilateral relations with Australia."

The murder on January 2 of Nitin Garg brought sharp condemnation from the Indian government and allegations of Australian racism in the Indian media.

India's Mail Today defended its cartoon, which showed an Australian police officer in a Ku Klux Klan hood, insisting the Melbourne force was a "racist organisation".

"We perceive the Melbourne police to be a racist organisation simply because it seems it is not acting fast enough, or seriously enough, on the attacks on Indian students," editor Bharat Bhushan said.

A series of attacks on Indian nationals and students in Australia sparked street protests and a diplomatic row in the middle of last year.

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