Seven weeks after striking terror in India’s heart, suspected jihadis and their local abettors on Thursday triggered a series of blasts across Assam killing at least 66 people and injuring over 400.
Assam, incidentally, is the “home state” of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He represents the state in the Rajya Sabha.
In a synchronized operation between 11 a.m. and 12.15 p.m., the terrorists used timed devices to explode 13 bombs placed in cars, autorickshaws, motorcycles and bicycles. RDX was used in most of the incidents while TNT did the damage in a couple.
The first bomb went off in an autorickshaw below a flyover at Ganeshguri close to the Assam Secretariat. A row of vehicles parked below the flyover caught fire compounding the impact.
At 11.27 a.m., a car bomb shook the chief judicial magistrate’s court in Kachari locality. A twin blast at Kamarpatty near Panbazar police station followed three minutes later.
As black fumes engulfed the blast sites, shrieks of the injured pierced through. By the time shell-shocked could come to their senses, 15 people lay dead, some charred in their vehicles. At least 18 more died in hospitals while 150 others were battling for their lives.
As the city administration swung into action, reports of more blasts from three western Assam districts poured in. The first of these blasts occurred at Old Paglastan in Bongaigaon town. Five people, including four security personnel, were injured trying to defuse a bomb planted in a motorcycle.
Between 11.27 and 11.31 a.m., three bombs planted in bicycles went off in western Assam’s Kokrajhar town — two in a weekly vegetable market and one in the railway station. The blasts left 21 dead and 80 injured.
Three blasts then rocked a vegetable market at Barpeta Road town in western Assam killed 12 persons and injured 68. The bombs, placed in bicycles, went off between 11.45 and 11.48 a.m.
“We will get to the bottom of this heinous crime, and we are not distinguishing between terrorists of one kind or the other,” said Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who also holds the Home portfolio. “If needed, we shall seek the help of external agencies and create a task force for investigation.”
According to IG (Special Branch) Khagen Sarma, the needle of suspicion vis-à-vis the blasts was on both the jihadis and ULFA. “The picture will be clear after investigation in a couple of days. Unlike in the past, the intensity of the blasts was very high this time.”
The IG added that Guwahati was on the hit list of the Jamat-ul Mujaheedin, Harkat-ul Jihadi Islami as well as ULFA. “We had information that the jihadis were planning to strike around the time of Diwali.”