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Gunmen Kill at Least 30 After Storming Hindu Temple - 2002-09-24

Unidentified gunmen have killed at least 30 people at a Hindu religious temple complex in the western Indian state of Gujarat. Senior Indian officials are appealing for calm, but a military operation to retake the temple appears imminent.

Witnesses at the Akshardham temple complex in the Gujarat state capital, Gandhinagar say three or four gunmen scaled the walls outside the temple complex, rushed into the main temple building, and began firing on pilgrims.

The temple complex run by the Swaminarayan sect is a popular pilgrimage site, with over one million visitors a year.

Officials say the attackers clearly wanted to inflict as many casualties as possible. India's Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani who represents Gandhinagar in India's parliament has appealed for calm.

Indian commandos have taken up positions surrounding the temple complex. Witnesses say a number of pilgrims, many of them wounded, remain trapped inside.

Earlier this year Gujarat was the scene of the worst religious rioting in more than a decade in India. More than 1,000 Muslims died in rioting after a group of Muslims attacked a train carrying Hindu pilgrims.