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Monday, November 06, 2006

Blasts highlight India's other terror front

The Australian: INDIAN security officials were summoned to an emergency meeting in New Delhi yesterday after terrorist bombs in Gawahati, the capital of Assam state, killed at least 15 people and injured more than 50.

The blasts were believed to be the work of the United Liberation Front of Assam, which has waged a lengthy insurgency against Indian administration in the oil- and timber-rich state.

The violence in Guwahati is an unwelcome development for New Delhi as it struggles to deal with terrorism on other fronts, and tries to force Pakistan to take action against the terrorist groups operating from its territory.

New Delhi declared a ceasefire with the Assam insurgents in August but called it off a month later when the ULFA demanded the release of jailed leaders. Since then there have been killings, kidnappings and attacks on security forces and installations.

The Gawahati blasts, the worst in Assam for years, followed warnings in recent weeks by Indian security officials about the extent to which terrorist groups operating against the Government were being assisted by groups in Bangladesh, which shares a border with Assam. Madrassas (religious schools) in Bangladesh are believed to supply weapons to the ULFA insurgents.

In its protracted paramilitary campaign, the ULFA has long had close relations with Pakistan's top spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, and New Delhi will be investigating those links to see whether the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba had a hand in yesterday's devastating attacks, as it did in the terror bomb blasts on the Mumbai rail network in July.

The first blasts occurred when a bomb carried on a bicycle was exploded in the busy Jaynarayan Road area in the middle of Fancy Bazaar, a crowded market in the heart of the city. A few minutes later, a second bomb exploded on the outskirts of the capital.

The local Inspector-General of Police, Khagen Sharma, said: "The latest modus operandi of the ULFA is to use bicycles to plant high-power programmed-time devices, as it it easy to move and plant them at public places without raising suspicions."

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi called the bombings "an inhuman and dastardly act" and vowed to take strong action against those responsible.

The ULFA is believed to maintain its principal bases in Bangladesh, where a number of its leaders are based and have significant business investments.

The Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam and the Muslim United Liberation Front of Assam have in the past been reported to be the main suppliers of arms to the ULFA through Bangladesh, and there seems little doubt the jihadi network, which is gathering strength, is a principal source of support for the Assam insurgents.
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