Thu, Jan 27, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Explosions cause panic during Indian celebrations

AP , GAUHATI, INDIA

Security officials and others react after the blast during Republic Day celebrations in Gauhati, India, yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

Suspected militants set off two explosions during Republic Day celebrations in this northeastern state capital yesterday, wounding two people and creating panic among nearly 900 others watching a parade, police said.

The two explosions at the national-day parade occurred 15 minutes apart in Gauhati, the capital of Assam state, Superintendent of Police Hiren Nath said.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack that wounded one police officer and one civilian, Nath said.

Nath said the explosives, attached with timers, appeared to have been planted weeks ahead of yesterday's parade.

Rebel Groups

State Governor Ajai Singh blamed rebel groups, who had asked people to boycott celebrations marking the adoption of India's Constitution in 1950. The first blast took place nearly 200m from the platform where the governor was seated.

Soldiers and schoolchildren went ahead with their parade, though most of the nearly 900 people in the audience had fled in panic.

In a separate incident, soldiers shot dead eight people yesterday in Sialmari, an island 50km west of Gauhati, during a raid on a suspected rebel hideout, Inspector-General of Police Khagen Sharma said.

Hiding

Acting on a tip that guerrillas were hiding on the island in the Brahmaputra River, soldiers arrived there by boat. Challenged by a mob of local residents, the soldiers opened fire, Sharma said.

It wasn't immediately known whether any of those killed were militants.

Meanwhile, suspected rebels triggered a blast under a road culvert in Bongaigaon, a town 225km west of Gauhati, but there were no injuries, Sharma said.

Ten rebel groups called for a boycott of national day celebrations in five of the seven northeastern states.

Among them was the United Liberation Front of Asom, the most powerful group, which has been fighting for a sovereign, socialist Assam since 1979.

The rebels accuse New Delhi of plundering resources from the region, which is rich in minerals, tea, timber and oil, and say they are trying to protect their distinct ethnic identities.

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