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Passenger Bus Bombing Kills 5 in India - 2003-08-14

A bomb explosion in northeastern India has killed five people and injured at least 14 others on a passenger bus. Officials are blaming separatist militants for the attack, which comes a day ahead of independence day celebrations.

The explosion occurred early Thursday on a bridge near Imphal, capital of the northeastern state of Maniupur.

Police say a remote controlled bomb blew up a passenger bus that was crossing the bridge at the time. Police and soldiers are reported combing the area for the perpetrators.

Officials blame separatist militants for the bombing. Militant groups in Manipur oppose the central government's control and accuse it of exploiting the area's mineral wealth while doing nothing to further development. Security is already tight as the country prepares for celebrations Friday of India's independence from Britain in 1947.

Hundreds of thousands of police, soldiers and security forces are on alert, particularly in the capital and in the disputed area of Kashmir.

New Delhi Police Commissioner R.S. Gupta said special security measures are being implemented in the capital.

Commissioner Gupta says tight security will prevail at what he calls certain sensitive points in the city, including the Red Fort.

It is at that 17th century fortress that Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee will deliver his independence day speech early Friday.

Officials say air space over the capital will be closed for several hours and helicopters will be used to provide aerial surveillance. Thousands of policemen will be placed on guard around the parliament building, which came under attack from Kashmiri separatists in December 2001.

Various militant groups have called for a boycott of independence day activities and urged people to stay away from public events.