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Six injured in Assam serial blasts

Fear gripped the northeastern state after separatists triggered 5 explosions overnight blowing up gas pipelines.

india Updated: Jun 10, 2006 12:18 IST

Fear and panic gripped Assam on Saturday after separatists triggered five powerful explosions overnight blowing up oil and gas pipelines and wounding at least six people.

A police spokesman said there were four landmine explosions and a grenade attack in eastern Assam late on Friday.

"Two pipelines transporting natural gas and as many crude oil pipelines were blown up in landmine explosions, while six people were seriously injured when militants lobbed a grenade at a private residence," a senior Assam police official said.

The serial explosions on Friday night came hours after a powerful blast at a crowded vegetable market killed five people and wounded six more in Guwahati.

"There is tremendous fear with people literally panicking after some 10 explosions have taken place since Thursday night. We are even scared to send our children to school now," said Bonti Hazarika, a housewife in the oil town of Duliajan in eastern Assam.

Police said the two landmine blasts at the gas installations sparked off a massive fire with people in and around the area fleeing for safety.

The two blasts took place near a tea garden in Naharkatia, about 500 km east of Guwahati.

The gas pipelines belonging to the state-owned Assam Gas Company Limited were used for transporting natural gas to a fertiliser plant.

"The fire leapt at least 80 to 100 metres and was controlled after more than an hour after the gas valves were closed. The damage was extensive," a senior company official said.

There were two more explosions that ripped apart crude oil pipelines belonging to Oil India Limited (OIL), India's premier oil exploration firm.

The attacks took place near Badhoipasali, close to the OIL headquarters of Duliajan.

"One of the pipelines transports crude to the Digboi refinery and another was used as a carrier for transportation of crude from oilfields to a tank farm," OIL spokesman Nripen Bharali informed.

"Some operational work would be hit due to the blasts. We are assessing the extent of damage."

There were four separate explosions on Thursday that left 34 people injured in the districts of Dhubri, Mangaldoi and Nagaon.

Police blamed the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) -- a rebel group that has been fighting for an independent Assamese homeland since 1979 -- for the blasts.

"The ULFA is behind all these explosions and we have intelligence inputs about a plan to strike terror (in Assam) for three days beginning Thursday," said Assam's Director General of Police Dipak Narayan Dutt. The ULFA has not claimed responsibility for the string of explosions.

ULFA representatives have held two rounds of peace talks with New Delhi since last October with the next round expected on June 22.

Since the start of the insurgency, at least 15,000 people have lost their lives in Assam where half a dozen other rebel groups operate with demands ranging from independence to greater autonomy.