Terror gripped Assam after a series of 11 bomb blasts rocked India's northeastern state Thursday killing over 60 people and injuring about 300. Authorities clamped an indefinite curfew after angry mobs went on the rampage, even setting fire-fighting vehicles ablaze.
A man tries to extinguish fire at a blast site near a court in Guwahati
Synchronised bombings tore through India's volatile northeast killing over 60 people, wounding more than 300 and setting police on a frantic search for unexploded bombs.
All the 11 bombs were timed to go off in a span of an hour. The blasts began at 11.20 a.m. -- four went off in Assam's main city of Guwahati including one close to the chief minister's secretariat, three in Barpeta district, three in Kokrajhar district and one in Bongaigaon district, all in western Assam.
Thick black smoke billowed into the sky, and the mangled remains of cars littered Guwahati's streets even as fire brigade personnel and rescue workers rushed to control the flames.
The largest blast took place a few hundred yards from the secretariat, the building housing the offices of the state's chief minister Tarun Gogoi. Television footage showed firefighters spraying streams of water at charred, twisted cars and motorcycles.
No one claims responsibility
The area was teeming with people, office goers, shoppers and vendors when a very big explosion took place. There were no immediate reports that any group had taken responsibility for the bombings.
Chief minister Tarun Gogoi said his government would deal with the perpetrators firmly.
"Everytime they try to create problems either in Guwahati or many other places", he said. "In fact only yesterday we had discussed about the threat perception at a meeting. The government cannot afford to be complacent. We have to be alert all the time."
Separatism and ethnic tensions
Assam has been hit by a separatist insurgency led by the United Liberation Front of Assam or ULFA that demands independence for the region and is often blamed by the authorities for bombings. But public support for the ULFA has dwindled in recent years after a series of attacks in public places that claimed heavy civilian casualties.
Last month, ethnic clashes left 57 people dead in the area when indigenous Bodos fought with Bengali-speaking Muslims.
Political controversy about terrorism
Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K Advani blamed the government for not doing enough to contain terrorists:
"This government has been unsuccessful in controlling terrorism. Because of this there is an atmosphere of insecurity in the whole country. This can be the handiwork of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh settled in the north-east."
The explosions came six weeks after the Indian capital New Delhi was hit by a series of bombs in crowded markets that left more than 30 dead. Those blasts were claimed by a group calling itself the Indian Mujahedeen.
With assembly elections scheduled to begin next month in six states including a crucial poll in insurgency riven Jammu and Kahsmir, the immediate task of the government will be to ensure that peace prevails.