Church groups in Gujarat have expressed their condolences to the families of 18 Muslim pilgrims killed by a speeding truck yesterday morning in Bagodara. They also demanded a thorough investigation into the incident which also left ten people injured, six of them seriously. Eight of the dead were women. The pilgrims, most of them from Modasa in the western Indian state’s Sabarkantha district were on their way to Bhadiad in Ahmedabad to participate in the Urs festival for Sufi saint Mahmood Shah Bukhari. The Urs (commemoration of death anniversary of saints) celebration was to begin today. According to reports, the pilgrims were making their way to the festival on foot and had stopped by the roadside to rest. Describing the incident as “very unfortunate”, Jesuit Father Cedric Prakash said there should be a full inquiry into the matter. “The killing of 18 people by a roadside like this is unprecedented,’’ he said. Father Joji Mathew, director of the Bhuj-based Kutch Jyoti Trust, said that the driver of the truck should be prosecuted. Sanjay Vincent, a Catholic activist who directs the Centre for Education Development and Research in Ahmedabad, urged the state government to construct rest stops for pilgrims on major routes to avoid such incidents in future. M.M. Malik, a senior police official, said preliminary reports suggest the accident occurred after a blow-out in one of the truck’s tires. “But the real truth will only come out after questioning the driver who fled after the incident,’’ he said. Meanwhile, the state government has announced compensation of 100,000 rupees (US$ 2,235) for the families of the dead and 25,000 rupees for the injured.