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Army summoned to quell communal violence that kills 15 in north Indian state

By Sharat Pradhan

LUCKNOW, India (Reuters) - The Indian army was called in, an unusual measure, to contain communal violence pitting Hindus against Muslims that killed at least 15 people in northern Uttar Pradesh state.

An army contingent of up to 800 was dispatched to the area on Saturday night, as armed gangs of Jats, a group practicing Hinduism, stormed a mosque and a village with Muslim residents, the state's principal home secretary R.M. Srivastava said.

"We had sought assistance of the army last night after we found the violence spreading across to other villages," Srivastava told Reuters.

"In fact, we were able to bring things under control until fresh violence broke out in (a) village Sunday morning."

The violence erupted on Saturday following a meeting attended by Jats in Muzaffarnagar district, 140 km (90 miles) northeast of New Delhi. Police said 10 people died, including a journalist and photographer, and about 35 were injured.

Five more were killed in a fresh outbreak on Sunday morning.

A curfew was imposed in three districts,

"I would appeal to all the people there to maintain peace and do not trust or listen to any rumors," Akhilesh Yadav, Uttar Pradesh's chief minister, told reporters.

The Jats are demanding the rescinding of charges against members of their community in connection with a communal clash last month in which three people were killed.

Arun Kumar, a senior police official, said tensions were fuelled by an online video purporting to show the killing of two Muslim youths last month.

Local media said about 50 outbreaks of communal tension have occurred in populous Uttar Pradesh since the region's Samajwadi (Socialist) Party came to power last year. More than 25 people have died.

(Writing by Anurag Kotoky in New Delhi; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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