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Minors among 6 dead
- Cycle bomb blast near Machkhowa mosque on day of Asian Grand Prix hints at security lapse

Guwahati, June 23: Cocking a snook at the intensified security arrangements in the Assam capital, suspected Ulfa militants today triggered a powerful bomb explosion near Machkhowa mosque. Six persons, including two children, were killed. Several others were injured.

“The bomb had been kept on a bicycle and it went off around 7.30 am,” disclosed Kamrup (metro) deputy commissioner Avinash Joshi. The cycle was parked in front of the mosque adjacent to the vegetable wholesale market in Machkhowa. Most of those hurt were morning shoppers or vendors.

The blast occurred just hours before the Asian Athletics Grand Prix started here. Joshi said Ulfa might have carried out the blast prior to the inauguration of the grand prix in a bid to garner maximum publicity.

The explosion made absolute mockery of the claims that security had been beefed up in the city.

Ulfa, as usual, denied its involvement in the blast. Ulfa spokesman and deputy commander-in-chief Raju Baruah, in an e-mailed statement, denied the outfit’s hand in the Machkhowa blast.

But police are convinced after the preliminary probe that it was the banned outfit’s handiwork. “From the modus operandi in today’s explosion, which is similar to that of recent blasts in the city, Ulfa is the prime suspect,” senior superintendent of police (city) Surendra Kumar said.

Those killed were identified as five-year-old Hanifa Khatun, Rafique Ahmed, 40, his son Safique, 10, Hasan Ali, 13, Imanul Hussain, 30 and Sanjib Ali, 25.

Altogether eight persons wounded in the blast were hospitalised at Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) and Mahendra Mohan Choudhury Hospital (MMCH).The injured were identified as four-year-old Mofizul Hussain, five-year-old Moina Khatun, Gyasuddin Ali, 39, Ashok Kumar Shah, 28, Anwar Hussain, 42, Majibur Ali, 22, Md Qurban Ali, 17 and Pradip Haloi, 40. Doctors said Ashok Kumar Shah’s condition was “very critical”.

Today’s blast sent security forces into a tizzy. Not just the grand prix, Thai commerce minister Krik-Krai Jirapaet and Union ministers Jairam Ramesh and Mani Shankar Aiyar are also in town. Moreover, the Ambubachi Mela is under way at Kamakhya Temple.

Revenue minister Bhumidhar Barman, former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and AGP leader Chandra Mohan Patowary were the first among the politicians to visit the site.

“It is not possible for the government to deploy security personnel in every nook and corner of the city. We need to generate strong public opinion against such violent acts if we have to prevent such bomb blasts in future,” Barman said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also condemned today’s bomb blast. He spoke to Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi after the incident.

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