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Churches deplore north-east India blasts that hit Baptist centre


Churches in India have joined in widespread denunciation of a series of bomb blasts that killed at least 76 people and left more than 400 injured in Assam state, in north-east India, and that also damaged a Baptist centre.

"We strongly condemn such heartless violence unleashed to common people," said the Council of Baptist Churches in North East India (CBCNEI), which was also hit by one of the 11 almost simultaneous bomb blasts in three major cities of Assam on 30 October.

One of the six bombs that rocked Guwahati, the capital of Assam state, exploded at a gate in front of the offices of the church council that groups Baptist churches in north-east India.

Indian authorities said on 31 October they suspected a militant Islamic group to be behind the blasts. "Our initial investigation points that these attacks were carried out by jihadi forces with the help of local militant groups," the Reuters news agency quoted Khagen Sharma, inspector general of police in Assam and chief of Assam’s intelligence services as saying.

"A partially burnt body at the driver’s seat, the hands still clutching the steering wheel; death has never arrived in Guwahati with more gruesome an image," lamented the church council.

The Rev. Ngul Khan Pau, general secretary of the Baptist council, told Ecumenical News International, "As soon as the blast took place outside our compound in Pan Bazar, I went out and saw a man whose throat was cut by shards. He collapsed near our gate and succumbed to his injuries."

Pau said, "Another person came dragging his body for about 10 feet (3 metres), without legs, both were cut off below his knees. A father with his son, and a mother with her daughter were charred beyond recognition." He said that two students from the Lewis Memorial Hostel at the Baptist compound were missing after the blast, and the body of one of them was found during the night while the second was still missing.

In addition, 15 shops in the Baptist church complex were gutted in the bomb blast and parts of the pastors’ quarters had been burned.

"The anti-social elements are making their presence felt by their inhuman and shameless acts of violence and terrorism. Violence is no answer for any grievance," said the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India in a statement after the blasts. Urging the government "to nab the culprits of these heinous crimes at the earliest opportunity and bring them to justice", the bishops also called for "stringent punishment to all those involved in violating peace and harmony in the country".

Assam has been the scene of ethnic clashes and violence for many years.

(c) Ecumenical News Internationa