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May 25, 2009 at 03:50pm IST

Sikh priest killed in Vienna attack

New Delhi: An Indian Sikh priest has become the first casualty of the bloody clashes between two Sikh sects in Vienna, Austria.

Austrian police say two groups of Sikh worshippers clashed with knives and a handgun in the gurudwara on Sunday killing an Indian Sikh priest and injuring 30 others, nine of them seriously.

The priest who died from gunshot wounds has been identified as 56-year-old Sant Ram Nand. Sant Ram Nand underwent emergency surgery but died during on Sunday night.

He was accompanying another priest Sant Niranjan Das who was the preacher at the ceremony in the gurudwara. The two were giving a sermon to a gathering that calls itself the Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha.

Violence erupted when clashes broke out after six intruders attacked the gathering with knives and guns. All the assailants belonged to a rival Sikh sect and were objecting to the sermon.

Police have arrested six suspects so far.

"According to our investigation so far six persons did not agree with the ceremony during a religious service of the Sikhs. They stood up, pulled their guns and attacked the people inside the temple and the priest. They injured people and were badly injured themselves by the gathering. That is what the investigation has shown so far. We cannot tell if there is a political motivation or if there had been a dispute between marginal groups," said spokesman for Vienna Police Michael Takacs.

Another eyewitness Rikki said that the assailants fired at the gathering and also stabbed some people.

"I heard sixteen shots, somebody held him, he had a knife and there were several people," said Rikki.

When asked if he held the priest, Rikki replied, "No, I didn't, a colleague of mine did, and then we both held him. I saw that he was hurt, that was all I saw. Inside, many people were hurt, my uncle, too. He was shot."

The other injured priest, Sant Nirnajan Das, is so far in stable condition.

CNN-IBN's Political Editor for Europe, Sanjay Suri reported that all was calm in Vienna.

"It's all quiet for now after those incidents in Vienna. The situation is under control. The people behind this (attack) have been arrested. Leaders of both groups are appealing for peace. What happened was the work of a few and though there have been problems between the two communities there's no such ill-will of the kind. The people of Ravidass community have asked for security. There are many Ravidass followers in many parts of Europe," reported Sanjay Suri.

Meanwhile, the violence in Vienna has had its repercussions in Punjab too.

There was tension in parts of Punjab and Chandigarh is now on high alert. Curfew continues to be clamped in Jalandhar where protestors damaged police vans and public buses late on Sunday night. Six companies of paramilitary forces and five columns of Army have been deployed.

Angry mobs allegedly blocked a bypass road that connects Phagwara to Jalandhar and Chandigarh. Violence also spilled out on national highways blocking roads to Nawanshahr, Hoshiarpur and at other places in the Doaba region where mobs also set tyres on fire.

In Nakodar, too, thousands came out on streets and pelted stones on the police.

Delhi-Amritsar Shatabdi Express was stopped by the administration as a precautionary measure after Darbanga-Amritsar Express was attacked at Jalandhar Cantonment railway station.

(With inputs from Jyoti Kamal)