BHUBANESWAR, India: September 1, 2008. Hindu mobs have burnt at least four more churches in Orissa, officials said on Monday, as religious violence appeared to spread. Thousands of people, mostly Christians, have taken shelter in makeshift camps,
where Hindu mobs went on the rampage last week after a Hindu leader was killed.
Last week officials said the violence appeared to be abating after Hindu and Christian leaders called for calm, but over the weekend it spread to new parts of the state.
Mobs set fire to four churches in the districts of Koraput and Rayagada, Orissa's Director General of Police, Gopal Chandra Nanda, told Reuters.
Two churches and several houses were also burnt in the Kandhamal district, the epicentre of the tension, despite a curfew imposed in most of its towns, one of the state's leading newspapers, The Samaja, reported on Monday.
Officials said they could not confirm that report.
The violence has drawn international condemnation, including from Pope Benedict. Local government officials revised the death toll to 14 and said they had received unconfirmed reports that two more bodies had been found.
Thousands of police and paramilitary forces have been deployed in nine of state's 30 districts after the killing of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, a senior state police official said.
"We are going to deploy in three more districts on Monday," he added.
Meanwhile according to PTI, government claims that 558 houses, 17 church/prayer houses torched during riot: Additional contingents of security forces have been deployed in Orissa's riot hit Kandhamal and other areas where the situation was under control, the state government said today.
At least 558 houses and 17 places of worship were burnt in the riots that followed the killing of VHP leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati on August 23. Official sources have put the number of killed at 16 with the recovery of two bodies in Kandhamal district.
Around 543 houses were burnt in the worst hit Kandhamal district, while 15 houses had been set ablaze in Gajapati district, Chief Secretary Ajit Kumar Tripathy said after reviewing the situation at a meeting chaired by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. Tripathy did not mention how many people were killed in the riots.
Over 185 people were arrested from Kandhamal district on charge of rioting, arson and other offences, while a total of 35 people were injured in the riots there, he said, adding all the cases of torching of places of worship were reported from Kandhamal district.
Besides Kandhamal, Tripathy said, people were provided with food in free kitchen in Rayagada and Gajapati districts. While 12,539 people were fed in 10 relief camps, 783 people got the facilities in two relief camps in Rayagada district.
He said relief camps were located at Chakapada, Raikia, Baliguda, K Nuagaon, Tikabali, Phiringia, Phlbani, Tumudibandha and Daringbadi blocks in Kandhamal district.
Director General of Police Gopal Nanda said besides 12 companies of para-military forces, 24 platoons of Orissa State Armed Police, two sections of Armed Police Reserve forces and two teams of Special Operation Group (SOG) were deployed in Kandhamal.