Serial bomb blasts have rocked the Indian state,
Assam, with most of the explosions taking place in crowded markets. India's
government confirms 12 separate blasts, with police saying around 61 people have
died and several hundred have been wounded. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman
reports from the Indian capital, New Delhi.
Coordinated explosions rocked crowded outdoor food
markets throughout Assam within a short period just before midday Thursday.
One of the injured survivors, S.K. Dutta, told News Live television in
Guwahati he was on his way to buy vegetables when he was hit by one of the
Dutta, speaking with his nose bandaged, says after the
explosion, panicking shoppers and merchants ran away as fires broke out.
At least five of the
blasts took place in Guwahati, the state's population center - where, as the
smoke cleared and the extent of the devastation became evident - mobs turned on
police and rescue workers.
Government vehicles and ambulances were
pelted with stones and overturned. Fire trucks were also attacked by those
apparently angry with the belated arrival on the scene by authorities. The mob
scenes prompted authorities to clamp a curfew on parts of the
Although Assam has been beset by separatist violence for decades,
the serial bomb blasts are regarded as the worst terrorist attack in memory to
strike India's multi-ethnic northeast.
One of the explosions took place
only a few-hundred meters from the building housing the state's top elected
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was quick to condemn the
attacks, blaming "divisive powers" who want to break up the country. He is
calling for a united effort by the people of India to fight
Indian Home Affairs Minister of State Shakeel Ahmad tells
reporters it is premature to single out any responsible entity, noting recent
bombings in many parts of the country have been blamed on various
Ahmad says these were high-intensity explosions and that it will
take some time for investigators to learn all the details. He contends there was
no intelligence failure in anticipating such an unprecedented
India's top opposition leader, L.K. Advani of the Bharatiya
Janata Party, blames the governing alliance, led by the Congress Party, for
failing to prevent a series of terrorist bomb blasts this year in the country.
Advani says illegal migrants from Bangladesh and their masters are
likely responsible for the attacks in Assam.
Others direct suspicion on
the state's most infamous militant separatist group, the United Liberation Front
of Asom, known as ULFA. But it had been believed ULFA was seriously weakened
after recent counter-insurgency operations by India's military.
CNN-IBN network quotes ULFA, labeled a terrorist group by India's government, as
denying responsibility for the blasts.
Assam, with a population of 26
million and an agrarian economy, is best known for tea and silk. But the eastern
Himalayan state is beset by poverty and competition between migrants, including
those from Bangladesh, and local people. It has been wracked by separatist
violence for decades.
Last month, clashes in Assam between indigenous
tribes and Muslim settlers left nearly 50 people dead. Two other northeastern
states were hit by bomb blasts in the past month.
independence in 1947, tens of thousands have died in separatist violence
throughout the northeast.