By BosNewsLife Asia Service
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife) -- A dozen bomb blasts rocked the Indian state of Assam Thursday, October 30, killing at least 50 people and injuring 300 others, including Christians, a main alliance of churches and mission groups told BosNewsLife.
The blasts also injured at least one pastor and damaged a Baptist church, Christian shops and other properties in the state's largest city of Guwahati and three other towns, said the All India Christian Council (AICC).
Many of Thursday's blasts were in crowded markets in the state and many bombs were hidden in motorcycles or scooters, witnesses said.
In a statement obtained by BosNewsLife, Reverend M. Haokhothong, Former Treasurer of the Council of Baptist Churches in North East India, confirmed that "Around fifteen shops belonging to the Guwahati Baptist Church in the Panbazar [area of Guwahati] were destroyed...The front portion of the church building and half of the pastorâ€™s living quarters were burned and the pastor was injured." His name was not immediately released.
One of the explosions took place only a few-hundred meters from the building housing the state's top elected officials.
An injured survivors, S.K. Dutta, told News Live television in Guwahati that he was on his way to buy vegetables when he was hit by one of the blasts. Dutta, speaking with his nose bandaged,
said, "after the explosion panicking shoppers and merchants ran away as fires broke out."
Although Assam has seen separatist violence for decades, Thursday's blasts were described
as the worst terrorist attack in memory to strike India's multi-ethnic northeast.
Soon after the Assam blasts, residents of Guwahati burnt government and public properties,
to protest against the perceived lack of security meassures in Assam. Government vehicles and ambulances were reportedly pelted with stones and overturned. Fire trucks were also attacked by those apparently angry with the belated arrival on the scene by authorities, witnesses said.
No-one claimed responsibility for the attacks, which security analysts said appeared
to be coordinated. However police blamed previous bomb blasts in Assam on Islamist militants, including from neighbouring Bangladesh.
Indian politicians suggested that the state's most infamous militant separatist group, the United Liberation Front of Assam, known as ULFA, was behind the attack. However Indian media said ULFA denied involvement, as it has been weakened because of recent counter-insurgency operations by India's military.
Across India, a wave of bomb attacks killed more than 125 people in recent months. Police blamed most of those attacks on Muslim militants, although some Hindu extremists have also been suspected of carrying out several attacks.
Minority Christians are among those being targetted by militants, church groups and human rights watchers said. "There is no place for terror in a civil society. Every Indian citizen must be united to terrorism in the country,"said AICC National Secretary Sam Paul.
Thursday's blasts near Christian shops and a church were adding to concerns within India's
Christian minority. There has been a wave of anti-Christian violence in several states, especially in Corissa, where dozens have died in clashes with Hindu militants since August.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was quick to condemn the attacks, blaming "divisive powers" who want to break up the country. AICC said it has appealed to the government and local authorities to "maintain peace and calm at this tragic time of terror" and "cooperate with security forces to fight against terrorism."
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