Fight in Vienna temple wounds 11

May 24, 2009 9:12:36 AM PDT
Worshippers of Indian origin armed with knives and at least one gun fought one another in a temple in the Austrian capital on Sunday, and at least 11 were wounded, police and ambulance staff said. Police spokesman Michael Takacs said the brawl occurred in Sikh temple, but Mohnder Ram, a worshipper who said he had attended services there for decades, said Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and others regularly attend the Shri Guru Ravidass Temple. He said the attackers were Sikhs from a temple in another Vienna district.

Witnesses said the fighting erupted between worshippers in a dispute over the sermon.

Police said at least six men, one wielding a gun and the others knives, attacked the preacher. Other worshippers rushed to his aid, resulting in the melee.

Police spokesman Michael Takacs said all six attackers were in critical condition, while the wounds of the others were less serious. More people may have been slightly hurt and run out of the temple before police arrived, he said. Takacs said he did not know the motive of the brawl. He identified the temple as Sikh.

Ram, 72, said, "I heard four to five shots" in the temple. "People started screaming, children were crying as they ran out. It was like war. There was lots of blood everywhere."

Ram said the preacher, whom he said was Hindu, was among those shot.

An unidentified witness cited by the Austria Press Agency said the brawl was started by fundamentalist Sikhs from a higher caste, who accused the guru of being disrespectful with the Holy Book.

All the wounded were men of Indian origin and estimated between 30 and 50 years old, spokesman Bernhard Segal of Vienna medical services said.

Ram said about 400 people were at the service when the fight broke out in the temple, in a residential building of the working-class Viennese neighborhood.

Four ambulances and three medical helicopters transported the victims to hospitals.

The temple is situated in Vienna-Rudolfsheim, the capital's 15th district near Westbahnhof, one of Vienna's main train stations. Police cordoned off the area.

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