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Bombs in North India Kill 5, Injure Dozens - 2004-08-26


In India's northeastern state of Assam, two separate explosions have killed five people and wounded more than 40. The violence is the latest in a series of recent attacks blamed on separatist militants. Indian police say an explosion ripped through a passenger bus early Thursday, as it passed by the town of Gossaigoan, about 270 kilometers west of Assam's main city, Gauhati. More than 30 passengers on the bus were injured. Hours later, a bomb exploded on a bus carrying paramilitary troops and their families in the town of Paikan. At least one soldier and a six-year-old girl were among the casualties.

Thursday's attacks came on the heels of other violent incidents in Assam.

Police say, Wednesday night, rebels threw a grenade outside a cinema hall in the town of Dibrugarh, killing one person and wounding a dozen others. Suspected militants also set off an explosive devise on a rail line, disrupting train service.

A deadly bomb attack killed 17 students taking part in India's Independence Day celebrations in Assam earlier this month.

Police are blaming the attacks on United Liberation Front of Assam - a prominent militant group that is fighting for independence from India.

Hiranmay Karlekar, political editor with India's Pioneer newspaper, explains why security forces have found it difficult to curb militancy.

"The entire northeastern region is densely forested, has one of the most difficult terrains, communication lines are few," he said.

Assam is the largest of seven northeastern states where nearly a dozen militant groups are waging insurgencies that have killed tens of thousands of people. These states are among the country's most underdeveloped areas.

Mr. Karlekar says the many ethnic tribes that inhabit the region have been angry with successive federal and state governments for neglecting the economic development of the region.

"There is a complex interplay of ethnic conflict, ethnic identities and the failure to accommodate their aspirations, which caused the tension and alienation," said Hiranmay Karlekar.

Militant groups in these states want either independence or more political autonomy.

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