06/13/2006, 00.00
INDIA
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Fresh wave of terrorism kills eight people in last five days in Assam

by Prakash Dubey
Latest victim dies in market bomb attack. For police responsibility lays with secessionist United Liberation Front of Assam.

Silliguri (AsiaNews) – In the last few days a series of bomb blasts has left 8 people dead and at least 50 injured in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam compared to no important incident reported in the previous 30 days during which local elections took place.

Yesterday a bomb exploded in a crowded market in Digboi, Tinsukhia district, killing one person and injuring more than a dozen. This saw local authorities declare 'Red Alert', a state of maximum alert.

Since June 8 at least 22 bombs exploded in different parts of the state. No one has claimed responsibility for the violent incidents but fingers are pointed at the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), a secessionist group whose violent acts have caused the death of more than 15,000 people.

"The terrorists are targeting gas pipelines, railway tracks and crowded public places causing both human and property losses. Police and paramilitary convoys and camps are also their targets," said Ramesh Rawat, a senior paramilitary official engaged in anti-terrorist operation in the state.

For him, the violence with its accompanying economic and human losses is definitely the group's doing. "We are sure the ULFA is orchestrating the entire gamut of serial bomb blasts," he said, since they "are taking place exclusively in their zones of influence."

The trucking industry has suffered from this wave of violence. Many lorry drivers have stopped working for fear of road mines. If things don't change, perhaps up to 2,000 of them might leave the state.

"Trade and other economic activities had been disrupted since 1979, but last October we went back into business. We were happy," said Shabir Ali, a lorry driver. "Until last month ULFA hadn't cause any problem. Now there are these attacks that worry us."

In October the Union (federal) government and ULFA had started a series of peace talks. The first two sessions have taken place and the third is scheduled to start next June 22.

"We are afraid of the new violence in Assam," Kapil Mitra told AsiaNews. For the social activist, "the scenario becomes more tragic because ULFA denies its involvement in the explosions and even holds the police and the intelligence services responsible for trying to undermine the peace talks. The police instead point the finger at ULFA claiming that it is using bombs as a pressure tactic to get the most out of the [peace] talks."

Union Home Secretary V. K. Duggal warned the ULFA leadership that its strategy of using violence would be counterproductive. "These are not good tactics. We can also deal with violence but right now we want to talk about peace," he said.

"They are using mercenaries to carry out the bomb attacks," objects Paresh Barua, head of ULFA's armed branch, who blames the violence on elements inimical to the peace.

"I don't understand why we should live this way," said Thomas Kent, a Catholic scholar. "Perhaps our destiny is to live for a long time with this culture of violence. Only God can help us."

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