54 killed and 200 injured in bomb carnage

NEW DELHI - At least 54 people were killed and more than 200 injured yesterday in 11 bomb blasts triggered by suspected separatist militants in India's northeastern state of Assam.

Officials said there were 11 blasts within 20 minutes. Four blasts took place in the state capital Guwahati, three in Barpeta district, three in Kokrajhar district, and one in Bongaigaon district, all in western Assam.

Doctors said the death toll could rise as several of those injured were in critical conditions.

Television footage showed thick black smoke billowing from destroyed shops and mangled vehicles as people screamed and ran in panic.

The Guwahati blasts took place in crowded markets. "The area was teeming with people, office-goers, shoppers and vendors when a very big explosion took place," Arindam Das, a witness at the blast said.

"I saw at least six dead bodies while more than 30 people were lying on the ground and bleeding," Das said.

The bombings sparked protests and street violence with angry mobs attacking police teams in Guwahati, saying they had failed to provide adequate security.

The state administration placed police on red alert, imposed a curfew in sensitive areas and deployed additional paramilitary patrols.

Assam has been a disturbed state and has witnessed such incidents every one or two months over the last 30 years. - Sapa-DPA