Blast in Imphal, one killed

Imphal : A suspected separatist bomber was killed when an explosive device he was carrying to plant at a festival venue in this Manipur capital exploded Wednesday, just days ahead of the prime minister’s visit here. Two people were injured.

A police spokesperson said the bomb exploded near the entry gate of the ongoing Sangai Festival here around 11 a.m.

“We suspect the person who died is the one who carried the bomb concealed in a sack to plant at the festival venue,” a senior police officer said, requesting not to be named.

The bomber apparently was riding on a cycle-rickshaw when it exploded. The rickshaw puller and another pedestrian sustained minor injuries and were discharged from hospital after first aid by doctors.

“Today was the concluding day of the festival and there were no people around when the blast occurred, and hence no other casualties,” the officer said.

A number of foreigners, including some from South Korea, Myanmar, Thailand and South Africa, have put up stalls at the festival venue. They were not present when the explosion took place.

The blast comes ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s day-long visit Saturday to Imphal, where he is scheduled to launch and inaugurate several development projects. The prime minister is also expected to address a public meeting.

The site of the blast is close to a convention centre which the prime minister is slated to inaugurate.

It is not known who carried out the attack but police officers say they suspect militants of the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) were behind it.

The party, one of several separatist groups in Manipur, is said to have been involved in a series of deadly explosions and attacks on security forces in the past.

A faction of the KCP has called a 72-hour general strike in Manipur, which ends Thursday morning, to protest a prolonged economic blockade of the state.

Three-month long blockades of roads leading into Manipur by Naga and Kuki tribal groups were lifted temporarily Tuesday ahead of the prime minister’s visit.

The Nagas had blocked two key highways linking Manipur with the rest of India to protest the demand for a new district by the rival Kuki tribe.

The Kukis called off their own 92-day blockade earlier this month after the government agreed to their demand.

The blockades have led to shortages of food, fuel and medical supplies across the state.

More than 20 militant groups are active in Manipur, bordering Myanmar, with demands ranging from secession to greater autonomy for the state.

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