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Grenade kills child on Bihu

Guwahati, April 14: Militants suspected to be from the Ulfa struck in the heart of the city on the first day of the Assamese New Year, killing a five-year-old boy and a youth to dampen Rongali Bihu revelry further after an incessant downpour.

Inspector-general of police (special branch) Khagen Sarmah said the militants hurled a grenade at a group of security personnel from atop the Ganeshguri flyover, close to the capital complex in Dispur, around 6.30 pm.

None of the police and CRPF personnel was killed, but a five-year-old boy who was passing by with his parents on a motorbike fell down under the impact of the explosion and died of head injuries on the spot. A 30-year-old bystander who was seriously wounded passed away shortly after being admitted to a private nursing home.

An 11-month-old infant was among the 12 who suffered injuries.

The incident added to the gloom over inclement weather in the city. At the site of the attack, a shoe that the child victim — identified as Hawan Narzary — was wearing and a sandal belonging to his injured mother lay next to the damaged motorbike as the police began their investigation. It was a poignant scene, one that seemed to unsettle even hardened police officers.

Witnesses told the police that the boy’s father lost control of the motorbike when the grenade landed on the road and exploded. The IGP said the blast was a “low-intensity” one, though the casualties and the number of injured indicated otherwise.

Police commandos cordoned off the area immediately after the incident and senior officials, including director-general of police P.V. Sumant, Kamrup (metropolitan) deputy commissioner A.K. Absar Hazarika and city superintendent of police Hiren Chandra Nath, rushed to the spot.

Those injured were identified as Hawan’s parents Dipti and Nabaratna Narzary, Nirode Sarma, infant Rich Rahman, Ajit Kalita, Pallabi Kalita, police constable Akshyay Choudhury and CRPF jawans Ajayed Singh, Shiv Singh and Sheikh Aimul Haque. The security personnel were admitted to Gauhati Medical College and Hospital.

The grenade attack coincided with CRPF director-general J.K. Sinha’s visit to the state to oversee deployment of forces in the region for the Lok Sabha elections. Officials expressed concern over the fact that the incident took place in spite of intensive security arrangements in the city and elsewhere in the state.

Polling in Assam will be conducted in two phases, on April 20 and 26. A few days ago, election commissioner . Gopalaswami had said he was worried over reports of militant groups, especially the Ulfa, planning to disrupt the Lok Sabha elections.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi made a similar statement, warning candidates for the 14 Lok Sabha seats of the state to be “safe rather than sorry”. He advised them to be alert to the possibility of militants targeting them during electioneering.

Gogoi said the administration was doing everything to ensure a trouble-free poll, but did not rule out sporadic hit-and-run operations by the militants, particularly in the areas bordering other northeastern states and Bangladesh.

The Ulfa had gunned down Dhubri BJP candidate Pannalal Oswal a few days before the 1999 Lok Sabha elections and another party nominee, Jayanta Dutta, in Dibrugarh two years later.

Picture in Northeast

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