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At least 56 killed in blasts in northeast India

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[October 30, 2008]  GAUHATI, India (AP) -- A series of coordinated blasts tore through India's volatile northeast on Thursday, killing at least 56 people, wounding more than 300 and setting police on a frantic search for any unexploded bombs, officials said.

One bomb exploded near the office of the Assam state's top government official in the largest blast, leaving bodies and mangled cars and motorcycles strewn across the road.

InsuranceBystanders dragged the wounded and dead to cars that took them to hospitals. Police officers covered the burned remains of the dead with white sheets, leaving them in the street.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the blasts that went off within minutes of each other, but the region is torn by dozens of militant separatist groups that have long fought the government and one another.

Fifty-six people were killed in the blasts, including at least 25 killed in five explosions in the state capital, Gauhati, said Subhash Das, a senior official in the state's Home Ministry. Dozens were also killed in blasts in the Kokrajhar district and in the town of Barpeta.

At least 300 people were injured in the 13 blasts, most caused by bombs and at least one from a hand grenade, he said.

The largest blast took place a few hundred yards from the secretariat, the building housing the offices of the state's chief minister. Television footage showed firefighters spraying streams of water at charred, twisted cars and motorcycles.


"I was shopping near the secretariat when I heard three to four loud explosions. Windowpanes in the shops shattered and we fell to the ground as the building started shaking," said H.K. Dutt, who was lightly wounded by shrapnel.

"I stood up and saw fire and smoke billowing out, then I looked down and saw blood on my shirt," Dutt said.

N.I. Hussain, Gauhati's deputy inspector general of police, told the CNN-IBN news channel that police in the state were on high alert and searching for more unexploded bombs. "There may be more blasts. You never know," he said.

Later, dozens of people angry over the blasts took to the streets of the state capital, stoning vehicles and torching at least two fire engines. Police imposed a curfew on the city and shut down roads leading in and out of the area.

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Dozens of militant separatist groups are active in India's northeast, an isolated region wedged between Bangladesh, Bhutan, China and Myanmar with only a thin corridor connecting it to the rest of India.

The separatists accuse the central government in New Delhi, 1,000 miles to the west, of exploiting the region's natural resources while doing little for the indigenous people -- most of whom are ethnically closer to Burma and China than to the rest of India.

More than 10,000 people have died in separatist violence over the past decade in the region.

The area also has been hit recently by ethnic clashes. At least 49 people were killed in July in violence between members of the native Bodo tribe and recent migrants to the area, most of whom are Muslims.

The government has blamed several previous serial attacks in India on Islamic militants from nearby Bangladesh.

[Associated Press; By WASBIR HUSSAIN]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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