Five killed in Assam bomb blasts

02 Jan 2009


GUWAHATI (India), Jan 1: At least five people were killed on Thursday in separate bombings in the Indian city of Guwahati, police said, blaming a dominant insurgent group active in the northeast of the country.

Two of the bombs went off in crowded marketplaces while the third explosion was reported beside a road in Guwahati, the largest city in the troubled state of Assam, officials said.

Guwahati police chief G.P. Singh said the blasts were from improvised explosive devices probably planted by the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) ethnic guerilla force.

“No one has claimed (responsibility for) the blasts but we suspect the Ulfa seems to be behind these attacks,” Singh told reporters.

Police officials said the two bombs to hit markets were packed with steel balls and attached to bicycles, while the third was placed in a roadside rubbish bin. At least 50 people were injured.

Assam state police chief G.M. Srivastava also blamed the dominant guerilla group and said four women were among those injured.

“The blasts have been triggered very definitely by Ulfa militants,” he said, adding that a hunt was on for the bombers who fled after planting the explosives.

Police said the serial blasts took place as Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram was on an official visit to Guwahati to review security in India’s restive northeast.

“One of the bombs went off near the route the home minister was scheduled to take,” a senior security official said.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has scheduled a stop-over in Guwahati on Friday before flying to the nearby city of Shillong to attend a weekend science conference, state government officials added.

In the past two decades, more than 10,000 people have lost their lives to insurgency in Assam state, which is known for its tea, timber and oil reserves.

The latest blasts occurred just over a month after an attack on Mumbai which left 172 people dead, including nine gunmen.

In October last year, 71 people were killed and scores hurt when a series of bombs exploded in towns and cities across Assam.

The Indian government blamed Ulfa but it denied involvement. A group calling itself the “Islamic Security Force-Indian Mujahideen” later claimed responsibility.

Other previous bombings in Assam have also been blamed on Ulfa which is fighting the government for an independent homeland since 1979.--AFP