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Ulfa sets off blasts in Dhubri hall

Gauripur, Aug. 14: Breaking a monthlong lull in its attacks on cinema halls in Assam, suspected Ulfa militants hurled two grenades inside a hall in Dhubri district this afternoon, killing one person and injuring 22 others.

The blasts occurred during the noon show at Urvi cinema here, following which the administration ordered closure of all halls in the district till further orders. A high-level security review meeting in Dispur today apprehended more such attacks in view of Independence Day tomorrow.

This was the fifth blast inside a cinema hall in Assam since militant groups from the Northeast banned screening of Hindi movies from November 15 last year. While the earlier blasts were confined to upper and central Assam, today’s incident was the first in lower Assam. The last blast took place at Krishna hall in Nagaon town on July 10, in which four persons were hurt.

Today’s grenade attack was surprising as the hall was screening a Bengali film, Mayer Anchal. There were around 60 spectators watching the movie when the rebels hurled the grenades around 1 pm in the rear stall, five minutes after the interval. Two of the critically injured — Kamal Ghose of Rupshi and Nabauddin Shiekh — were operated upon at Dhubri Civil Hospital. Ghose breathed his last at 4.30 in the evening. Shiekh, along with Manoj Choudhury and Ranjit Choudhury, was rushed to Gauhati Medical College Hospital.

The district administration has handed over Rs 5,000 each to the next of the kin of the trio and announced that the relatives of the deceased would get Rs 1 lakh ex gratia. All other injured persons will be given Rs 1,000 tomorrow.

Dhubri superintendent of police L.R. Bishnoi said the blasts were triggered by Chinese grenades. Their pins were recovered from the spot. “Going by the modus operandi, it seems to be the handiwork of the Ulfa, but involvement of the NDFB cannot be ruled out totally.”

Safiur Rahman, a daily wage earner lying in the hospital bed here with multiple injuries on his leg and hand, said he saw several thrown out of their seats. Ranjit Chowdhury of Gauripur ward number four with severe leg injuries said the bomb went off in the row on his right, raising a cloud of dust.

Upen Gogoi, owner of the cinema hall, said the militants had banned Hindi films and that’s why most of the hall owners were screening films in other languages. “We were screening a Bengali movie and, therefore, were quite confident about security.”

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