Sikh guru dies after Austrian gurudwara attack

May 25th, 2009 - 11:21 am ICT by IANS  

Vienna, May 25 (DPA) A 57-year-old Indian Sikh guru died in the Austrian capital Vienna Monday following an armed attack involving rival Sikh groups at a gurudwara the previous day, which also left at least 16 people injured.
According to the Austrian APA news agency, Sant Rama Nand died of his injuries in hospital.

The condition a second guest guru who was speaking at the gurudwara, Sant Niranjan Dass, 68, was stable after undergoing emergency surgery, doctors said.

Witnesses said six bearded and turbaned men equipped with at least one firearm stormed the Sikh temple, located in a residential area in Vienna, during sermons by the guest speakers.

The attack triggered panic among the congregation of at least 150 - some reports spoke of 350 - in which few of the men wore the traditional untrimmed beard and long hair woven into a turban that is typical Sikhism practice.

“Suddenly they took a gun and shot directly at the preachers,” said one woman present. “The people - children and everyone else - ran out. They ran for their lives.”

During the melee, members of the congregation pounced upon the attackers and overpowered them, beating some severely. Four of the attackers are among the severely injured, police said. Two of the attackers, who suffered only light injuries, were detained by police.

The visiting gurus, had been previously guests at the temple, which was first opened in 2005. Though having many followers in India, the two, who follow the Shri Guru Ravidas Sabha movement, were rejected as heterodox by a rival Vienna Sikh community.

Police believe the conflict was based on doctrinal differences between the more traditional Sikh community and the liberal group whose temple was the scene of the attack.

In India, the chief minister of the state of Punjab, which is home to a large number of Sikhs, called the attack an “outrage” and urged India’s foreign ministry to call on the Austrian authorities to thoroughly investigate the event.

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