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Attack by Sikh Extremists on Crowded Market Kills 22 Hindus

March 7, 1990 GMT

CHANDIGARH, India (AP) _ Masked Sikh extremists opened fire with rifles on a crowded market in Punjab state Wednesday night, killing 22 Hindus and wounded 42 others, officials said.

At least 10 Sikh gunmen converged on the main market street of Abohar and began shooting, deputy district commissioner Rakesh Singh said in Ferozepur, district headquarters. He said 18 men and one woman were killed instantly. Three more people died on the way to the hospital, he said.

Press Trust of India, citing unofficial reports, said about 25 people were killed in the attack.

Two bombs planted in the market exploded during the shooting, Singh said. Police suspected more bombs may have been planted along the street and army bomb experts were investigating, he said.

He said all the victims were Hindus and most were shopkeepers. Abohar, a predominantly Hindu town with a population of about 96,000, is 125 miles southwest of Chandigarh and 200 miles northwest of New Delhi.

A police spokesman in Chandigarh, the state capital, said the men were masked and arrived on foot.

″Nobody knows how they escaped,″ he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

State police chief K.P.S. Gill said the ″assailants resorted to indiscriminate firing followed by bomb blasts.″

Sikh extremists, who have been fighting since 1982 for an independent Sikh nation in Punjab called Khalistan, have killed more than 370 people in the rich northern farming state so far this year.

Sikhs, who comprise only 2 percent of India’s 880 million people, have a slight majority in Punjab. Sikh militants complain of political discrimination by the Hindus, who make up 82 percent of the nation’s population.

The Sikh faith has roots in both Hinduism and Islam.