Assam rail track blown up, two rebels killed
Passengers of the Arunachal Express had a narrow escape Sunday as a powerful explosion ripped apart a stretch of the railway track some 30 minutes before the train was to pass that area in Assam, officials said. Two militants were also killed in separate shootouts in the state.
A police spokesperson said the blast occurred early Sunday near Dekamishing village in Dhemaji district, about 370 km east of Assam's main city of Guwahati.
"The explosion led to a big crater with at least 10 metres of the railway track damaged in the blast," a police official said.
The bomb was planted on the track and was set to go off when the train from Rangiya in Assam to Murkokseleng in Arunchal Pradesh was to cross that area.
"Definitely the target was the Arunachal Express, but probably something went wrong and the explosion took place before the train crossed the area," the official said.
Police blamed the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) for the attack.
Meanwhile, two militants of the outlawed National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) were killed in separate shootouts Sunday in western and northern Assam districts of Kokrajhar and Udalguri.
"Both the NDFB militants were killed in separate raids with intelligence inputs indicating that they were planning to stage attacks ahead of Republic Day," the official said.
On Saturday night, a powerful improvised explosive device was defused after security forces spotted the explosive concealed in a polythene bag in the busy Machkhowa area in the heart of Guwahati.
"We had prior information of an Ulfa bomber trying to plant the bomb somewhere in a crowded marketplace. Due to intense security operations, the Ulfa militant failed to plant the bomb and left it on the pavement with police commandos managing to detect the explosive and immediately defusing it," the official said.
The Indian Railways have suspended the running of all night trains in Assam from 6 p.m. Sunday to Jan 27 midnight in view of the general strike called by five militant groups in the northeast on Jan 26.
"The decision to suspend running of night trains was taken keeping in view security aspects and safety of passengers," said railways spokesperson T Hajong.
Five militant groups have called a general strike from 1 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Republic Day, Jan 26.
The five rebel groups that have announced their boycott through a statement e-mailed to journalists are the Ulfa, the NDFB, Manipur People's Liberation Front (MPLF) - comprising several major militant outfits in the state, the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) and the Tripura People's Democratic Front (TPDF).
These groups are active in Assam, Manipur and Tripura.
Militant groups in the northeast have for years boycotted national events to protest New Delhi's rule over the region and stage violent attacks in the run up to the celebrations to make their presence felt.
Thousands of army, police and paramilitary troopers are standing guard in other northeastern states, particularly Manipur, where militants launched a grenade attack Tuesday near the residence of the state police chief. Three people were injured in the attack.
Militant groups often target vital installations like road and rail bridges, and oil installations, besides attacking security forces as part of their design.