Strike shuts down India's Assam state to protest serial blasts

Businesses and schools shut down Monday in India's north-eastern state of Assam as part of a strike called to protest serial bombings there last week, which left 81 people dead and more than 300 injured, news reports said.

The 11-hour dawn-to-dusk strike was called by the influential All Assam Students' Union, which has accused the government of failing to fight terrorism, reported dpa.

Shops, offices, schools and colleges were closed in the state's main city, Guwahati, and most other towns, the IANS news agency reported.

Groups of protestors held marches through the streets of Guwahati. Prayer meetings were also held in several places in the state to mourn the victims of Thursday's serial blasts.

A series of 12 blasts occurred in quick succession - six in Guwahati and six in the three western districts of Barpeta, Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon. At least 74 people died immediately while seven others succumbed to their injuries in hospital over the next three days.

"The shutdown has been total and spontaneous, and this shows that people in general condemn all forms of terror and vindicates our stand about the government's failure in preventing such violence," student union adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya was quoted as saying.

Police reported sporadic violence with protesters throwing stones at vehicles and blocking railway tracks in Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts. At least 50 union activists were arrested in different parts of the state.

A little-known Islamic outfit claimed responsibility for the blasts in an phone text message sent to a local television channel Friday. The Islamic Security Force (Indian Mujahideen) also warned of more blasts.

At least five people have been arrested and more than 10 detained for questioning in connection with the blasts. Several of those detained are illegal Bangladeshi migrants who had settled in Assam.

The police said it was too early to assign blame for the blasts, but authorities earlier had indicated that local militant groups in collaboration with Islamic groups based in Bangladesh might have been involved in the attacks.

The most influential rebel army in the state, the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom, has denied involvement.

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