Indian Mujahideen claim responsibility for Assam blasts

GUWAHATI: A little-known Islamic group claimed responsibility in a text message to a news channel Friday for serial blasts in India’s Assam that claimed 76 lives on Thursday, police said. The group, identifying itself as the ‘Islamic Security Force-Indian Mujahideen’, warned such attacks would continue in the Assam state, police said.

“The Islamic Security Force-Indian Mujahedeen takes the responsibility for yesterday’s blasts,” said the text message sent to the Newslive television network in Assam. “We warn all of Assam and India for situations like this in the future and we thank all our holy members and partners,” added the message.

A police spokesman said the group was believed to have come into existence in 2000 in western Assam, where tribal Bodo militants are campaigning against Muslim settlers from nearby Bangladesh. The group has not been active recently in Assam, where more than a dozen militant groups are campaigning for demands ranging from independence to greater autonomy.

The police’s suspicion had centred on the rebel United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), which has been fighting for an independent homeland since 1979, but the ULFA had denied its involvement. Bangladesh-based Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami was also a suspect, Reuters reported.

“Our initial investigation points that these attacks were carried out by jihadi forces with the help of local militant groups,” Khagen Sharma, inspector general of police in Assam and chief of Assam’s intelligence services, told Reuters. “We had information about jihadi and ULFA elements planning strikes in Assam,” Reuters quoted Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi as saying.

Protests: Seven people were injured in Guwahati on Friday after angry residents protesting against the blasts clashed with police near one blast site. Police fired into the air and a curfew was later imposed in the market area to thwart further protests.

Questioning: AFP quoted police as saying they were questioning a dozen people over the attacks. Assam Home Commissioner Subhas Das said 15 people had died of their injuries overnight, taking the death toll to 76, of whom 43 were killed in Guwahati.

Three other districts in western Assam were also targeted. The total number of injured stood at more than 300. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in New Delhi on an official visit, condemned what he called an “act of terrorism targeting civilians”, while Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh vowed to bring the bombers to justice. “Such barbaric acts targeting innocent men, women and children only highlight the desperation and cowardice of those responsible,” Singh said, adding he would visit Assam on Saturday.

In the aftermath of Thursday’s bombings, police slapped a curfew on Guwahati as residents – blaming lax security for the blasts – attacked fire engines, which were trying to battle a series of fires.

By Friday morning, the curfew had been lifted and there were fresh clashes as around 200 protesters confronted police in the city centre.

Agencies

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