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Thursday, October 30, 2008


Assam serial blasts kill 66

9 Blasts In 30 Mins, Seething Mobs Attack Policemen

Guwahati: In the worst-ever terror attack in the North-East, nine high-intensity blasts triggered in a span of 30 minutes killed 66 people and wounded more than 470 in four places in Assam—Guwahati, Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon and Barpeta—on Thursday morning.
    In spite of repeated warnings by the army and intelligence agencies, the state administration was caught napping. Timer-equipped explosive devices, packed with RDX, had been planted in two-wheelers and cars which were parked in crowded areas. For the first time, the district magistrate's court in Guwahati was targeted.
    Three of the blasts took place in Guwahati, leaving 33 people dead and more than 200 injured. The worst-hit was the crowded market in Ganeshguri, just 200 metres from the high-security Dispur capital complex. The blast lifted a packed bus, hurled

it on the pavement and smashed it to pieces. The explosive had been hidden in a motorcycle under a flyover.
    The second blast took place at Fancy Bazar and another in the district court complex, which was packed with lawyers and litigants, having just reopened after the Diwali recess. In the court, exploding vehicles added to the carnage. Charred bodies lay everywhere and lumps of flesh clung to mangled metal.
    Almost simultaneously, three blasts occurred in Kokrajhar markets, killing 21 and injuring almost a hundred people. In neighbouring Bongaigaon district, a bomb found in a market blew up when policemen tried to defuse it. An additional SP was injured. In Barpeta Road, 12 people were killed in twin blasts in markets. Scores were injured.
    Officials said there were striking
similarities between the Assam serial blasts and those in Ahmedabad and Bangalore. The blame fell on the extremist United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) and the Bangaldesh-based Harkat ul-Jihadi-e-Islami (HuJI). While Ulfa's top leadership is based in Bangladesh and needs HuJI for logistics and financial sustenance, the Islamic terror group, in turn, draws on Ulfa footsoldiers for its operations, intelligence officials said.
Ulfa-HuJI Suspected
Ulfa, a militant group wanting to set up a sovereign Assam through armed struggle, is suspected to be behind the blasts along with Bangladesh-based HuJI. Ulfa was banned in 1990. Peace talks with Ulfa have not yielded results. It remains wedded to killings, kidnappings, economic subversion. Ulfa has denied involvement in the blasts
Foreign Links
Ulfa has links with anti-India bodies, including close ties with ISI. Its cadres trained in Pak in use of rocket launchers, explosives & assault weapons. Ulfa camps are in Bangladesh. It has links with HuJI and other groups close to Bin Laden. Ulfa's leaders have found refuge in Bangladesh where the outfit also has business ops

Why Did It Carry Out Blasts?
Ulfa is suspected to have carried out HuJI's bidding. It is dependent on HuJI as its leaders' safety depends on it. Over time, its financial, military and logistical support from the ISI and HuJI has grown. Most blasts carried out where Bodos recently clashed with Bangladeshis. Bodos, whose land has virtually been overrun by these illegal immigrants, have been fighting Bangladeshis

Any Govt Response?
Govt taken aback by mass outrage in Assam over blasts. Cabinet met in the evening and was briefed by NSA. Red alert sounded. Assam's borders have been sealed. NSA team, forensic experts rushed there. Decision taken not to reduce security presence during polls
Govt failed, admits Assam chief minister Guwahati: Ulfa and Bangla d e s h - b a s e d HuJI are the prime suspects in the blasts that rocked Assam on Thursday, claiming 66 lives. After the blast, people defied the curfew and poured into the streets of Guwahati, attacking policemen and shouting slogans against the administration for "failing to protect the city''. Several fire engines and police vehicles were set ablaze. The police, who were themselves left shell-shocked by the blasts, struggled to rein in the mobs and had to fire in the air at some places to disperse the crowds.
    Chief minister Tarun Gogoi admitted to a lapse. "There were intelligence inputs but we did not anticipate it would have such a magnitude,'' he said. "I have never seen such intensity of terror attacks.'' The first indications of the threat had come on September 26, when the army gunned down seven HuJI militants in Kokrajhar. From mobile intercepts, the defence ministry said the group had come from Bangladesh and had been planning to link up with another HuJI team already in Guwahati to carry out serial blasts.
    The Assam police refused to heed the army warning. Now, they are examining the army claim to see if there is any link between the September 28 encounter and Thursday's blasts.
    A team of National Security Guards has arrived in the city to conduct investigations and the police's needle of suspicion is pointing at HuJI and Ulfa. "We are examining other outfits as well,'' Assam IGP Khagen Sarma said.
    Ulfa, however, denied its involvement in the blasts.

Tarun Gogoi


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