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Toll at 15 in Parade Bombing in India

Most of the victims are children. Rebels also strike a celebration in Kashmir, police say.

August 16, 2004|From Times Wire Services

GUWAHATI, India — The death toll in a bomb attack Sunday by separatist rebels on an Independence Day parade in northeastern India rose to at least 15 as rebels also attacked ceremonies in Jammu and Kashmir state, police said.

Many of the victims in Dhemaji, in the northeastern state of Assam, were schoolchildren ages 10 to 14 who were taking part in a parade when a bomb ripped through a college campus, police said.

A witness said most of the bodies of the children were burnt beyond recognition.

"The bomb exploded under the feet of the children. There is blood and human flesh all over the ground," schoolteacher Jiban Saikia said.

India's oil- and tea-producing northeast is home to dozens of insurgent groups, some demanding more autonomy and others secession.

Most of them accuse New Delhi of plundering the region's rich resources and flooding it with outsiders.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi blamed the powerful United Liberation Front of Assam.

In Kashmir, separatist militants lobbed a grenade into a school in Baramulla district, wounding 15 people who had gathered for Independence Day ceremonies, police said.

Kashmir, divided between India and Pakistan, has been racked by an insurgency that New Delhi accuses Islamabad of actively supporting.

Pakistan says it offers only moral support to those demanding a vote on Kashmir's independence or merger with Pakistan.

In an attempt to ward off attacks, tens of thousands of soldiers were placed on alert across India, and authorities closed off airspace over New Delhi, where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh delivered a speech.

Singh promised to carry forward peace efforts with Pakistan and said New Delhi wanted results from the dialogue that began this year.

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