Thirteen Blasts Kill At Least 77, Injure 320 Plus in Northeast India

THU OCT 30 2008 — Five blasts hit the Assam state capital, Gauhati, killing 25, according to Subhash Das, a senior official. Seven more bombs went off in three other towns in the state. One other explostion was a grenade.

Plastic explosives were used in the blasts to cause maximum damage and were remotely detonated within five minutes of each other using timer devices — hallmarks of strikes by suspected Islamist groups in India.

Muslim settlers, mostly from Bangladesh, have moved to this Hindu and tribal-dominated region, leading to increased ethnic tensions. Bangladesh-based Harkat-ul-Jihad al Islami (HuJI) is the main suspect in Thursday’s attack. HuJI was suspected by Assam police the discovery of RDX (plastic) explosives by U.S. private intelligence firm Stratfor.

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Dozens of militant separatist groups are active in India’s northeast, an isolated region between Bangladesh, Bhutan, China and Myanmar — only a thin corridor connecting with the rest of India. Separatists accuse the central government in New Delhi, 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) to the west, of exploiting the region’s natural resources while doing little for the indigenous people. Most separatists are ethnically closer to Burma and China than to India. More than 10,000 people have died in separatist violence over the past decade in the region.

The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) was also suspected, but police and security experts say the separatist group may have only played a supporting or logistical role in the Indian blasts.

Seven people were injured in Guwahati on Friday after angry residents protesting against the blasts clashed with police near one blast site.

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