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Chhat blasts kill 13-yr-old

Guwahati, Oct. 28: Chhat Puja celebrations in the Assam capital turned macabre this evening as twin explosions ripped through the banks of the Brahmaputra at Soonsali, killing a 13-year-old boy and injuring 12 others.

The first blast, which killed the boy, took place at 5.10 pm. The second bomb went off 10 minutes later, after the area was cleared of people and cordoned off. The victim was identified as Krishna Mukh-iya, a resident of Bamunimaidam B.G. Colony. He hails from Begusarai in Bihar.

An official of Noonmati police station said improvised explosive devices (IEDs) may have been used to trigger the blasts that left two-feet-deep craters in the ground. “It appears the bombs were planted underground,” he said.

The incident took place near a stage constructed by Pub Soonsali Chhat Puja Samiti for a function later in the evening.

Reinforcements have been sent in from Noonmati police station to quell tension in the area, where thousands congregated to observe the festival. Additional superintendent of police (city) Rajen Singh said there were no reports of more casualties in the blasts.

Witnesses said 12 people, including children, sustained injuries in the explosion and the melee that followed. A source at Gauhati Medical College Hospital confirmed that a 14-year-old boy, Anil Mukhiya, had been admitted with serious injuries. Police said two others, Malti Barman and Dilshad were also rushed to the GMCH.

Police said Dispur MLA Akon Bora had attended a Chhat Puja meeting at the spot barely 15 minutes before the blasts were triggered.

Security has been beefed up in the city, including the Sukleswar and Fancy Bazar ghats, where lakhs of devotees will assemble tomorrow to offer prayers to the Sun God.

Though there has been no official confirmation, a senior city police official said the involvement of Ulfa could not be ruled out. “We got some indication from two Ulfa linkmen apprehended recently that the outfit may try to create trouble during Chhat Puja, but we could not prevent it,” he said.

The two linkmen are Achyut Talukdar of Mukalmua and Nripen Barman of Barama in Nalbari district. City police have not made their arrest public so far.

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