Seven people were killed and 55, including minor children, injured in two bicycle-bomb blasts in Nalbari, headquarters town of lower Assam’s Nalbari district on Sunday morning.
The first blast occurred just near the Nalbari Police Station in the heart of the town around 10 a.m., injuring several people. As a huge crowd of market-goers gathered to help the injured and to witness the blast after-effects, another powerful blast occurred soon a few feet away from the first blast site.
Five people died on the spot in the second blast and over 50 were injured, several critically. Two people died later in hospitals here. About 30 seriously injured were admitted to the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) and other hospitals.
Police suspect that the blasts were the handiwork of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA).
However, a caller, identifying himself as self-styled commander of the ULFA’s 709 Battalion Hira Sarania, told three local television news channels that the outfit was not involved in the blasts. The caller alleged that the blasts could be the handiwork of vested forces to sabotage a fresh move by the People’s Committee for Peace Initiative in Assam (PCPIA), a conglomerate of civil society groups for brokering peace dialogue between the ULFA and the government.
A PCPIA delegation is now camping in New Delhi to impress upon the Union government to initiate the stalled peace process with the ULFA.
A senior police officer, who declined to be quoted on the ground that investigations were still on, told The Hindu that whether the ULFA denied it or not, the police suspected the twin blasts to be the handiwork of the militant outfit.
“Two improvised bicycle-bombs were triggered by the ULFA. In the past too, we had recovered similar bicycle-bombs of the ULFA. After triggering the blasts in a public place, the ULFA is in a denial mode, fearing public outcry against it,” he said.
The police also suspect that the ULFA was desperate to show its strength following the arrest of its self-styled foreign secretary Sashadhar Choudhury and finance secretary Chitraban Hazarika in Dhaka, who are now in custody of the Assam police.
The ULFA, however, has claimed responsibility for the bomb attack on railway oil tankers in upper Assam’s Golaghat district on November 16 night in which 16 wagons were blown off and 300-meters of railway track damaged.
On Saturday, the Assam police uploaded names and other details of nine ULFA militants on its website in the “Most Wanted” section.
The police expressed apprehension that these men—Shiva Chutia, Prasanta Sonowal, Durlov Gogoi, Biswajit Saikia, Pradip Baruah, Bosa Singh, Bimal Kalita and Swadhin Roy, entered the State to carry out sabotage during the run-up to the annual protest day observed by the ULFA on November 27.