Guwahati, Sept. 1: A blast ripped through a market at Bamunimaidam Railway Colony this morning killing a man from Bihar and injuring 24 persons. Five shops were gutted and several vehicles damaged after a LPG cylinder burst in an eatery under the impact of the explosion.
Fire tenders battled the blaze for nearly an hour.
The intensity of the explosion reduced an auto-van (AS-01 R/1009) parked at the site to a mangled heap of metal.
The victim, a cobbler, has been identified as Ram Lal Das, 60, a resident of Begusarai district in Bihar. He was in his shop when the bomb exploded. He used to stay at Bamunimaidam with his nephew.
According to the police, a time device planted on the van exploded around 11.50am. A senior city police official said that the owner of the auto van has been picked up for interrogation. Police suspect that the militants may have written Indian Airlines on the auto van to mislead them as the vehicle had never been used for any cargo service of the airlines.
Though no outfit has claimed responsibility for the attack, Ulfa’s strategy of hiding explosives in parked vehicles points the needle of suspicion towards the banned outfit.
A police source said that the owner of the auto-van, Champak Kalita, a resident of Basistha, was being interrogated.
Immediately after the explosion, the entire area was cordoned off and the injured were rushed to Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH). The condition of five persons is stated to be critical.
“The bomb was probably planted in an auto van parked by the roadside. The injured include pedestrians, shoppers and vendors,” senior superintendent of police Surendra Kumar said.
The nature of the explosive was yet to be ascertained, he added.
“A team of forensic experts has collected samples from the blast site and we are waiting for the report.”
Kumar, deputy inspector-general of police (central-western range) G.P. Singh and Kamrup (metro) deputy commissioner Avinash Joshi visited the blast site.
The area, known as Colony Market, was teeming with people at the time of the explosion. Panic-stricken people started running for cover.
“I was in my shop when two near-simultaneous blasts took place across the road. Black smoke enveloped the area. After some time, I saw people lying on the street writhing in pain,” Niren Sarma, owner of Mousumi Silk House, said.
“The intensity of the explosion shook my house. The LPG cylinder landed on the roof of a house more than 30 metres away,” Sumit Pal, a resident of the area, said.
Health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said chief minister Tarun Gogoi had condemned the blast and ordered the police to take stock of the situation. He ordered the police to take stern steps against perpetrators of crime. The PCC also condemned the blast.
Rebels held: Four suspected Ulfa militants were arrested from a bus (AS-25 C/1777) near Rangia on Saturday. Police also seized three improvised explosive devices from the militants. The bombs were later defused.
The bus was plying from Simlaguri in Barpeta district to Guwahati.