- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 15, 2004

NEW DELHI (AP) — A time bomb exploded during Independence Day celebrations in India’s remote northeast yesterday, killing 15 persons, seven of them schoolchildren, while a rocket attack hit celebrations at a school in Kashmir, wounding 17, officials said.

The attacks occurred as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged to fight terrorism in a speech at New Delhi’s 17th-century Red Fort, a tradition followed by each prime minister since India gained independence from two centuries of British colonial rule on Aug. 15, 1947.

“We will fight terrorism forcefully. Let there be no doubt about it,” Mr. Singh said in the speech.

He reiterated the warning later yesterday as he expressed condolences to the families of the victims.

“Such dastardly acts show the terrorists’ disregard for innocent lives. The perpetrators of such acts of violence will not be spared and the country’s resolve to eliminate the scourge of terrorism remains unshaken,” Mr. Singh said.

The time bomb had been buried in a parade ground at a local college in Dhemaji, a remote town in the northeastern Assam state, said state Home Minister Rockybul Hussain. Fifteen persons were killed and 21 were wounded, he said.

Another explosion occurred in the nearby town of Dhakuakhana minutes before the start of a parade. No casualties were reported.

The outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) was suspected of conducting the two attacks, said Assam Inspector General of Police Khagen Sharma.

Until last year, the rebels mainly targeted trains, rail tracks, road bridges, oil pipelines and soldiers.

The ULFA had called for a boycott of the Independence Day celebrations. The group has been fighting for a separate homeland for the Assamese since 1979 in an insurgency that has left more than 10,000 dead in the past decade.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir, which injured 17 persons, mostly schoolchildren.

The children had gathered at the school in Dangiwachi village to see a ceremony organized by the local contingent of the Indian army when the rocket struck. The injured included two soldiers, said Riaz Ahmad, a police officer.

Separatists have been fighting for 15 years for Kashmir’s independence from India or its merger with Pakistan. More than 65,000 people have been killed in the conflict since 1989.

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