GAUHATI, India (AP) — Suspected separatist rebels opened fire at a prayer meeting of Hindi-speaking migrants on Friday, killing two of them and wounding seven others in India's troubled remote northeast, police said.
Police officer Mugdha Jyoti Mahanta said the attack took place outside the home of a small trader in Bahbob, a village in Tinsukia district in Assam state. The attackers, numbering five to six, fled after firing at some at the religious gathering, she said.
Mahanta blamed the United Liberation Front of Assam (Independent) for the attack. The group has been fighting for decades for independence from India.
The group, led by Paresh Baruah, operates from hideouts along India's border with Myanmar and targets Hindi-speaking people from eastern Bihar state, considering them to be representatives of the Indian state. The group is blamed for killing nearly 100 Hindi-speaking migrants, a soft target in the state, since 2008.
The attack came as India prepared to celebrate on Aug. 15 the anniversary of its independence from British colonialists in 1947. Rebels carry out such attacks to mar the country's celebrations.
The area is 600 kilometers (375 miles) east of Gauhati, the capital of Assam state.
Dozens of rebel groups have been fighting the government and sometimes each other for years in seven states in northeast India. They demand greater regional autonomy or independent homelands for the indigenous groups they represent.
Last week, insurgents killed at least 14 people and wounded 16 others as they opened fire in a crowded market in Assam state. Six rebels arrived in a motorized rickshaw and fired automatic weapons and lobbed grenades in the crowded market in Balajan, an area just outside the town of Kokrajhar in western Assam.
Police blamed a faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland for the attack. The group has been fighting for an independent homeland for the region's Bodo tribespeople for decades. The Bodos are an indigenous tribe in Assam, making up 10 percent of the state's 33 million people.