|An injured demonstrator being treated at a hospital in Nghe An province|
Vietnamese security forces in Nghe An province opened fire and threw grenades at a group of Catholics demonstrating in front of the My Yen church for the release of two parishioners.
“Some 40 people were severely wounded by about 3,000 police, soldiers and civil guards using grenades, tear gas and batons to disperse the crowd,” a priest from Nghe An province told ucanews.com.
“Most of the wounded are being given medical treatment at a clinic in the compound of the Bishop’s House, while those with severe head injuries are being treated at a local state-run hospital,” the priest added.
A Church source who asked not to be named said security forces also destroyed homes and Catholic statues and images.
Hundreds of Catholics on Wednesday surrounded the Nghi Phuong commune’s headquarters to demand the release of two Catholic men – Nguyen Van Hai and Ngo Van Kho, aged 43 and 53, respectively – who were detained on June 27 and are reportedly being held at a prison in Vinh city.
State-run media accused the two men of “causing public disorder, injuring local officials and destroying public property,” in the wake of an earlier confrontation on May 22 when a group of Catholics were prevented from visiting the local shrine of St Anthony of Padua.
According to Church sources, a scuffle broke out between plainclothes security personnel and local residents, during which three injured officials were rescued from an angry crowd of Catholics by local priests.
During yesterday’s violence, police arrested at least nine people, according to a report from Radio Free Asia (RFA).
Security personnel have since left the parish and redeployed to the commune headquarters.
State-owned Nghe An television blamed yesterday’s violence on local Catholics, saying they were forced to take action when the demonstrators turned violent, according to the RFA report.
Today police and troops no longer surround the parish but have gathered to protect the commune’s headquarters, according to local Church sources.
One source said that officials today asked local priests to help diffuse the crisis, but they have refused until the two parishioners are released from custody.
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