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Troops rebuff Hindus from Moslem shrine

Thousands of Hindu fundamentalists failed in a new attempt Wednesday to storm an ancient Moslem shrine. At least 24 more people died in violence sparked by the dispute. Armed paramilitary troops blocked about 5,000 Hindus from attempting to re-enter the mosque in Ayodhya, which has been the center of a decades-old dispute between India's Hindu majority and Moslem minority.

Hindu fundamentalists broke through police cordons Tuesday and chipped away bricks and bits of plaster from the one-story mosque, which they want to replace with a Hindu temple.

At least five Hindus were killed and 20 injured when police opened fire on the rioters. Two of the injured died Wednesday.

The Hindu-Moslem dispute has led to the deaths of at least 170 people throughout India in the past eight days and pushed Prime Minister V.P. Singh's 11-month-old government to the verge of collapse.

A Hindu fundamentalist party withdrew support from the governing coalition last month to protest government policy on the temple project. The desertion left Singh without a majority in Parliament, but he has said he will win a vote of confidence scheduled Nov. 7.

Singh's beleaguered government received another setback Wednesday when the deputy minister for sports, Bhakta Charan Das, resigned to protest the police action at Ayodhya.

The dispute also triggered violence in neighboring Bangladesh, an Islamic nation, where Moslem mobs attacked temples and Hindu shops and homes after hearing of the situation in Ayodhya. Authorities clamped curfews in the capital, Dhaka, and the port city of Chittagong.

The Ayodhya dispute has festered for decades. Hindus claim the mosque was built over the birthplace of the Hindu god Rama.