Guwahati, March 14 (IANS) At least three leaders of Assam’s ruling Congress were injured Monday when a powerful bomb ripped through the party headquarters in the heart of Assam’s main city Guwahati.
The anti-talk faction of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) led by the elusive Paresh Baruah claimed responsibility for the attack at Rajib Bhawan located on the busy G.S. Road in Guwahati.
The blast occurred around 6.50 p.m. when the party office was teeming with workers and leaders with assembly elections in Assam due next month.
Police initially called it a grenade attack but it later turned out that a bomb had been planted in the office — concealed in a garbage bin.
Congress spokesperson Mehdi Alam Bora and Akshay Rajkhowa and party general secretary Ranjan Bora were injured in the attack.
“We were inside the office when there was a deafening sound. The next moment I found myself bleeding, with injuries on my face and neck,” Ranjan Bora told IANS.
A large portion of the office was damaged in the impact.
“We suspect it was a bomb planted inside the office,” Assam police chief Shankar Baruah told journalists.
ULFA’s Paresh Baruah claimed responsibility for the attack by telephoning media offices.
The anti-talks faction of the ULFA had last month threatened to attack Congress leaders and warned people against participating in party rallies in the run up to the assembly elections.
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said the Congress would not be cowed down by ULFA hardliners.
“Threats to our leaders and workers by ULFA is nothing new. Let me make it very clear that we shall never be cowed down by such threats of attacks on our lives,” the chief minister told journalists.
“I condemn this cowardly act. We are going to step up security and take action against the ULFA in the strongest possible way.”
The ULFA has killed at least a dozen Congress leaders since the 1996 assembly polls.
The ULFA statement last month said the Congress was responsible for dividing the outfit – luring some leaders into holding peace talks with the government.
The first round of ULFA-government peace talks was held Feb 10 in New Delhi with the process being led by the outfit’s chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa.
That the ULFA is vertically split was evident when Paresh Baruah termed the peace talks as “unconstitutional” as Rajkhowa and the other seven top leaders were being surrounded by “Indian forces” – meaning the talks were being held under pressure from New Delhi.
But the pro-talk ULFA leadership led by Rajkhowa has said that the decision to talk to the government had the sanction and approval of the ULFA general council.