Synchronised bombings strike Indian state of Assam

Friday, October 31, 2008

Map of India, Assam highlighted in purple

At least thirteen bombs were set off in the northeastern state of Assam in India on Thursday. The blasts went off shortly before noon IST (UTC+5:30) at market places and government buildings in the state capital Guwahati and surrounding area.

Reports say that so far 77 people have been confirmed killed and between 200 and 300 injured. 41 of the victims were in Guwahati, 21 in Kokrajhar and 15 in Barpeta.

Assam has been the scene of separatist insurgencies for years, most notably by United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) which was outlawed by the Indian government in 1990. The Associated Press says over 10,000 people have died in separatist violence in the past decade.

The ULFA has denied any involvement, reported the Press Trust of India. Instead, a previously unheard of group, calling itself Islamic Security Force-Indian Mujahideen (ISF-IM) claimed responsibility in a text message to a television station. The message included a warning of future attacks.

Later, people who were apparently upset about the bombings, started rioting in the streets of Guwahati and throwing stones at vehicles. They also torched at least two fire engines. Police shut down roads and implemented a curfew in response to the unrest.

Shakeel Ahmad of the Ministry of Home Affairs said conditions in Assam were "very volatile, the government was on high alert and, even then, this has happened."

In the past, the government has blamed similar attacks on Islamic militants based in nearby Bangladesh.

Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general of the United Nations condemned the attack in a statement.

Ban conveyed "sorrow and sympathy to the Government and people of India for the loss of life and destruction caused by today's series of bombings," in the statement which was released on Thursday.


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