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Sikhs Kill 16 in Punjab; Golden Temple Searched After Siege

United Press International

Suspected Sikh extremists killed 16 people across the state of Punjab on Thursday as security forces removed bodies and weapons and searched for holdout gunmen at the Golden Temple, where dozens of militants had surrendered Wednesday, ending a 10-day siege by security forces.

Authorities recovered 12 assault rifles, ammunition, grenades and explosives inside rooms adjacent to marble pathways in the inner courtyard of the temple where 45 people surrendered Wednesday after a confrontation with government forces that killed at least 46 people.

The fighting began May 9 when gunmen fired at an officer ordering them to stop fortifying the shrine.

Looking for Booby Traps

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Bomb squads looked for booby traps in the central gold-domed citadel that had been occupied by the militants, who are demanding that Punjab be granted independence as a separate nation called Khalistan.

Police reported that Sikh extremists killed 16 people Thursday in attacks across Punjab state. An estimated 104 people have been killed since Sunday and 1,101 this year in violence connected to the Sikh separatist drive.

One senior police official estimated the cleanup at the Golden Temple would take about two days, after which the complex will be handed over to a temple management committee to restore religious rituals, stopped for the longest period in more than 200 years.

More than 4,000 officers surrounded the temple during the confrontation and poured weapons fire into the complex but avoided the kind of military assault on the shrine that left more than 600 people dead under similar circumstances in June, 1984.

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That assault let to the retaliatory assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh security men in October, 1984.


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