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Post serial blasts, panic grips Assam

Militants triggered a dozen blasts killing two and injuring 23 since weekend in escalated attacks ahead of R-Day.

india Updated: Jan 23, 2006 13:11 IST

There is panic in Assam with militant attacks killing two people and severely hitting oil and gas supplies ahead of this week's Republic Day, officials on Monday said.

A police spokesman said suspected militants of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) have triggered a string of grenade attacks and bomb blasts across the state beginning Friday, targeting mostly gas, oil and power installations, besides security forces.

"There have been about a dozen explosions and an encounter so far in different parts of the state in which two people were killed, about 23 injured and five gas pipelines and three power installations were blown up," Assam's Inspector General of Police Khagen Sharma said.

Crude oil supply disrupted

A spokesman of state-owned Oil India Limited (OIL), one of India's leading oil exploration companies, said crude oil supply through pipelines to four refineries in Assam has been disrupted following attacks on their installations.

"Bombings on some of the gas pipelines have affected operations in one of our oilfields leading to disruption of crude oil supply. We are now transporting oil to the refineries using tankers," senior OIL official Nripen Bharali said on telephone from its headquarters at Duliajan in eastern Assam.

The pipelines belong to the state-owned Assam Gas Company, which supplies natural gas produced by OIL to domestic and industrial consumers in the region.

"The attacks on the pipelines will result in heavy financial loss and disruption in gas supplies to domestic and industrial consumers like power plants and tea factories," said Gas Company spokesman C Phukan.

Tension prevails

The serial blasts in Assam have led to tension among locals.

"There is a sense of insecurity and people like us are scared to even walk in the street for fear of explosions and attacks," said Mitali Bora, a doctor in Assam's main city of Guwahati.

Four of the dozen-odd explosions took place in the heart of Guwahati city, killing a civilian and seriously injuring 18 people, including 10 security personnel and eight pedestrians.

A policeman was killed in an encounter with ULFA rebels in the eastern Golaghat district late Sunday.

"I saw the explosion taking place in front of me with splinters shattering our car's windscreen. We were lucky to have survived but then I am horrified," said Ranjumoni Deka, a housewife in Guwahati.

Three policemen were wounded in the grenade attack on Sunday that narrowly missed Deka and her two sons who were sitting inside their parked car.

Maximum alert across city

The Assam government has sounded a maximum alert across the state after the serial blasts.

"We are trying our best to thwart such explosions from taking place in crowded places but when such incidents occur it does rattle common people," a senior police official said requesting anonymity.

ULFA's call for strike

ULFA has so far not claimed responsibility for the attacks but police suspect themilitants carried out the blasts before Republic Day on Thursday.

ULFA and five other groups have called a 17-hour general strike from 1 am on Thursday to protest the celebrations marking India's transition to a republic in 1950.

Militant groups in insurgency-racked northeastern states have for years boycotted national events to protest New Delhi's rule over the oil and timber-rich region.

There are some 30 militant groups operating in the region with demands ranging from secession to greater autonomy and the right to self-determination. More than 50,000 people have lost their lives to insurgency in the northeast since 1947.

First Published: Jan 23, 2006 09:46 IST