CASTE KILLINGS IN BIHAR
At least 21 people, all low-caste Hindus, have been massacred in the north Indian state of Bihar in an attack that police believe is linked to the endemic caste-related violence in the state.
Such attacks are an all-too common occurrence in the backward, poverty-ridden state of Bihar.
The gunmen came late at night when the villagers were sleeping.
Police said there were more than 100 armed men in the group that carried out this massacre. Many of the dead are women and children.
The authorities think the killings took place in retaliation for the murder a week ago of a former village official by suspected Maoist gunmen who have some support among the poorest people in Bihar.
Police say that the suspects in this latest attack are from the outlawed group known as Ranvir Sena, a vicious criminal gang that is controlled by Bihar's wealthy upper-caste landlords.
The police say they are largely
powerless to prevent attacks such as this one, although from time to time
they do manage to bring a semblance of control to the state's deeply entrenched,
caste-based culture of violence.
A boy from the village mourns the
The victims were all low caste Hindus, killed while they slept in the village of Khejan Narayanpur in the Jehanabad district.
The Bihar Director-General of Police, KA Jacob, said over 100 heavily-armed men shouting the slogan "Long Live Ranvir Sena", the name of the illegal private army loyal to upper caste landlords, descended on the village after dark.
Mr Jacob said additional paramilitary forces had already been requested before the latest attack, and were expected within a day or two.
Among the 11 dead were five women and a child.
The scene of the attack was visited by the former Bihar chief minister, Laloo Prasad Yadav, and his wife, Rabri Devi, who is the current chief minister.
A nearby crowd waving Communist banners shouted slogans against Mr Yadav.
At the end of January, 22 lower caste inhabitants of a nearby village were killed, provoking fresh concern about insecurity in India's most lawless state.
The BBC South Asia correspondent Mike Wooldridge says there will inevitably be concern that the latest killings will bring more retaliation in their wake.
Two suspected Ranvir Sena activists were gunned down by a left-wing Naxalite group after the last massacre.
Our correspondent says the struggle between the two movements in Bihar has left the police admitting to the difficulty of providing protection for villages.
In the worst massacre in Jehanabad at the end of 1997, 60 people died.
The Naxalite rebels want a radical redistribution of land in the state, which is bitterly opposed by upper caste landlords.