The outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) on Sunday sought public apology and forgiveness for triggering an explosion at an Independence Day parade ground in 2004 that killed 14 people, most of them schoolchildren.
On Aug 15, 2004, a powerful bomb went off minutes before the Independence Day parade took place in the eastern town of Dhemaji, about 400 km from Guwahati, killing 14 people and wounding scores more.
Police then blamed the ULFA for the attack, but the outfit continued to deny their involvement.
"We have now realised that our statement of disowning the blast (in 2004) was not true and hence we seek an apology from the people of Assam. The Dhemaji explosion is a dark chapter in our freedom struggle and till today we are deeply anguished," ULFA commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah said in an e-mailed statement.
The rebel leader admitted that the ULFA leadership was being misled by some of their cadre and junior leaders about the blast.
"At that time, those who executed the blast told our leadership that the attack was triggered by government forces. We believed them and then issued a statement saying the ULFA was not involved in that bomb blast," the rebel statement said.
The elusive ULFA leader was forced to seek an apology following angry reactions from the Dhemaji blast victims' families in recent days seeking severe punishment for the arrested rebel leaders, including ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa.
"Some of them (ULFA leaders) carried out the attack in collaboration with our enemies to defame the outfit without any instructions from the top leadership. We admit we failed to identify the main culprits at that time, but later identified those involved in the bombing and expelled them from the outfit," Baruah said.