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'Weak' outfit in R-Day retort
- 'Salute' or sabotage'

Guwahati, Jan. 27: Assam governor Lt Gen. (retd) Ajai Singh described it as a 'weak' outfit and the Tarun Gogoi government thought its security arran-gements were foolproof, but the Ulfa proved both wrong on Republic Day.

The secessionist militant group yesterday triggered two explosions ' the second one just 30 metres from the spot where the governor was inspecting the guard of honour ' during the central Republic Day function at Judges Field. There were no casualties and only two persons were injured, but the damage to the morale of the government and the security establishment could not have been more telling.

A senior police official said the twin blasts ' the first one occurred at 8.50 am and the second at 9.05 am ' were illustrative of the Ulfa's new strategy. 'The outfit inflicted minimum physical damage and got the maximum mileage this time. It has learnt its lessons from Dhemaji (where several children were killed in a blast last Independence Day).'

The governor, a former army general, surprisingly mistook the sound of the second explosion for a gun salute. One of the blasts occurred in a drain along the field, while the other took place just outside it.

The Ulfa triggered another explosion at New Guwahati, injuring two. A fourth explosion occurred in Bongaigaon town but nobody was injured.

Official sources said the police had found leads on the explosions at Judges Field.

Preliminary investigations by central intelligence and the special branch of Assam police revealed that the explosives used in the second blast had been planted not more than three weeks ago. This was ascertained from the electrical circuit of the programmable time-delayed device found at the spot.

The sources said a handloom exhibition was under way at the field when the bomb was supposedly planted. It has also been established that a tea kiosk was at that very spot during the exhibition. The police are trying to ascertain the whereabouts of the person who had set up the kiosk.

Investigators found a piece of paper with the date '4.1.2005' written on it at the site of the blasts. The paper was pasted on the explosive device, the police said.

The first blast ' in the drain ' occurred just after the chief minister's arrival at the venue. Children were evacuated as people who had assembled nearby started running.

The second blast occurred at 9.05 am, when the governor was inspecting the guard of honour in an open jeep after unfurling the Tricolour.

Chaos reigned after the incident. A member of the chief minister's security detail even took out his pistol when the media retinue approached Gogoi for his comments.

A sub-inspector with the special branch of Assam police, Nitul Hazarika, and an employee of state cultural affairs department, Padmeswar Bhuyan, sustained splinter injuries in the blast. The duo is now said to be out of danger.

As the situation calmed down, the governor delivered his speech and the official function continued though the cultural programme was cancelled. Singh, in his speech, claimed that 'the law and order situation has improved and insurgents have in desperation resorted to sporadic attacks on soft targets'.

Before the media also he insisted that there was no security lapse. 'I would say security arrangements for the Republic Day were very good,' he said.

However, Gogoi later admitted that there were security lapses and announced a probe into the twin blasts. Additional director general of police (criminal investigation department) Sankar Baruah was asked to conduct the probe within 24 hours. He will submit the report tomorrow.

The government this evening effected changes in the police set-up by removing city superintendent of police Hiren Chandra Nath. The deputy commissioner, Kamrup (metropolitan), was also removed from his post. Several other changes were also made to give the police administration more teeth.

 

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