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Vienna gurdwara attack suspects identified

By H S Rao in Vienna/London
May 29, 2009 16:03 IST
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All six accused in the violent attack on a gurdwara in Vienna that left one top leader of an India-based Sikh sect dead and another injured have been identified as illegal immigrants, police said on Friday, days after the incident sparked riots across Punjab and Haryana.

Police spokesman Michael Takacs said all the six were in custody, including the mastermind who was in coma in a hospital after he was shot in the head during the Sunday attack.

The attack was clearly pre-planned, Takacs said.

According to police, the suspects were illegal immigrants, including 24-year-old S Charnjit from Uttar Pradesh and 33-year-old S Hardeep. The two had reached Austria illegally in 2001 and 2008 respectively.

28-year-old S Sukhwinder from Haryana came to Vienna in 2001 and sought asylum citing a family feud for fleeing India while 34-year-old S Jaspal came in 2008 and requested asylum on religious grounds.

The other two suspects, 28-year-old S Satwinder from Uttar Pradesh and 45-year-old S Tarsum from Gujarat made only vague asylum claims.

Sant Rama Nand, 57, the deputy head of the 'Dera Sachkhand Ballan', had succumbed to his injuries received during the clash between the two rival groups of Sikh worshippers that also left 17 people injured, including the sect's head Sant Niranjan Dass, 68.

Dass is recovering in a hospital from the bullet wounds he sustained in the abdomen and hip.

The Austrian police is investigating reports that a group known as Khalistan Zindabad Force had claimed responsibility for the attack, Takacs said.

About 400 people were at the service when the fight broke out in the gurdwara at Pelzgasse, which was opened in December 2005 in the Austrian capital.

Punjab witnessed large-scale violence after followers of Dera Sachkhand Ballan took to the streets on Sunday night in protest against the attack on their leaders in the Vienna gurdwara. Haryana also witnessed violent protests.

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H S Rao in Vienna/London
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