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Twin blasts rock Assam
Published on 23 Nov. 2009 12:42 AM IST
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seven killed; ULFA denies hand in nalbari blasts Two powerful explosions shook Nalbari town in Assam Sunday, killing seven people and wounding at least 55, officials said. A security alert has been sounded in the state. The blasts took place in a span of about 20 minutes. Nalbari is about 70 km west of Assam’s main city Guwahati. “Seven people were killed and 55 injured in the explosions,” a senior police official said. Police had earlier said there were three explosions. They later said there were just two blasts and the third explosion was that of firecrackers going off in a nearby locality. The first blast occurred around 10 a.m. just outside the Nalbari police station and the second about 20 meters away around 10.20 a.m. “The explosives were stuffed inside bicycle frames, and the cycles were parked at the two sites,” Nalbari district police chief Jitmol Doley said. The authorities acted quickly, announcing a security alert. Police used loudspeakers to ask people to be vigilant against unattended bicycles and cars. Police also said that a nine-member ULFA hit squad had entered Assam to stage terror attacks. “A massive hunt is on to nab the ULFA hit squad,” an official at the Assam Police headquarters said. Most victims of Sunday’s bombings were morning shoppers or vendors as there was a Sunday market teeming with people close to the attack sites. “There was panic and chaos with human limbs strewn all over the place and blood splattered on the road,” said Ankur Das, a witness. “The sound of the first blast was deafening. The second took place in front of our eyes. Many who came rushing to the site of the first blast got injured in the second blast,” said another witness, Biplab Barman. Police blamed the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). “The modus operandi suggests it was the handiwork of the ULFA. The explosions are nothing but an attempt to make a point after two of their top leaders were arrested,” an intelligence official said. ULFA “foreign secretary” Sasha Choudhury and “finance secretary” Chitraban Hazarika, in police remand since Nov 6, were arrested by the Border Security Force (BSF) near Gokul Nagar in Tripura Nov 5 while trying to sneak into India. The duo were based in Dhaka. The ULFA denied carrying out the attacks. “We have not carried out the blasts in Nalbari. It was a conspiracy, an attempt to derail the peace initiatives taken by various civil society groups to push forward the deadlocked peace process between the ULFA and the government,” Hira Sarania, an ULFA commander, told the local media by telephone. On Monday, ULFA rebels blew up a petroleum-laden train in eastern Assam. At least 20 wagons went up in flames and a loss of Rs.100 million was estimated. The ULFA has been fighting for an independent homeland in Assam since 1979. Insurgency in the state has claimed about 10,000 lives in the past two decades. ULFA shifting base Hours after six people were killed in two powerful blasts near Guwahati on Sunday, Tarun Gogoi, Chief Minister of strife-torn Assam, told a news channel that the terrorist outfit is trying to shift base beyond the border. “I don’t know whether ULFA has support from Chinese authorities, but they are undoubtedly trying to shift their base to China,” Gogoi said, according to NDTV. ULFA is strongly suspected of being behind the blasts in Nalbari, which injured over 50 people. Police suspect the group was desperate to carry out a few strikes in the run-up to its ‘protest day’ on November 27. Safe passage to ULFA The Indian government is ready to give safe passage to United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) leaders, who are in Bangladesh, in order to facilitate talks, reliable source said here. “We have always been ready for negotiations with ULFA,” the sources said here Saturday. “We are quite willing. We had promised safe passage to ULFA leaders Arabinda Rajkhowa and Paresh Barua,” the sources said.

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