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Authorities patrol cities of Indian state after religious rioting

AHMADABAD, India (AP) _ Police banned large gatherings and patrolled streets in western India on Saturday after religious rioting linked to a Hindu ceremony near the ancient temple town of Ayodhya.

But fears of widespread religious violence dissipated after a long-awaited Hindu ceremony ended peacefully Friday.

Hindu nationalists had gathered for the ceremony in the northern city of Ayodhya, near the rubble of a mosque that was destroyed in religious violence in 1992. A priest held a Hindu ceremony, handing over a pillar to a government official to be placed near the ruins.

Hindus seek to build a temple on the site, which they believe is the birthplace of their god, Rama, but Muslims strongly oppose the idea. The dispute has been a source of tension between the groups, and was the root of violence earlier this month that killed 700 people in Gujarat.

After the ceremony, Hindus in the Gujarat town of Baroda burned down a mosque and destroyed two Muslim tombs. At least three people were killed and 26 others were injured in Baroda and Ahmadabad, the commercial center of Gujarat, police said. Two died in police fire, and a third man was stabbed to death.

Officers used batons and tear gas to disperse crowds, and witnesses said Hindu rioters, armed with swords and iron rods, looted and destroyed shops owned by Muslims.

Gujarat was calm on Saturday, authorities said. They banned the assembly of more than four people in public in many parts of Baroda and in the towns of Bharuch, Petlad and Balasinor.

On Friday, the Hindu nationalist government detained more than 18,000 Hindu activists nationwide, fearing a showdown at the site of the 16th-century mosque in Ayodhya could trigger violence between Hindus and Muslims.

The disputed site and some land around it is now under government control, and the Supreme Court has banned religious activity there. In a compromise with the government, the Hindu priests held their ceremony held outside the contested area.
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