NEW DELHI – A bomb exploded during an Independence Day parade in India's remote northeast Sunday, killing at least 15 people, including schoolchildren, while a rocket attack during a celebration at a school in the separatist region of Kashmir (search) injured 17, officials said.
The attacks came as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (search) pledged to fight terrorism during a speech at New Delhi's 17th century Red Fort, a tradition followed by each prime minister since India gained independence from two centuries of British colonial rule on Aug. 15, 1947.
The powerful bomb went off on the grounds of a local college in Dhemaji, where the parade was being held, killing 15 people, local lawmaker Dilip Saikia told The Associated Press. The remote town is 1,015 miles northeast of New Delhi, in the state of Assam (search).
Seven of those killed were schoolchildren, Assam Home Minister Rockybul Hussain said.
Another explosion also took place in the nearby town of Dhakuakhana minutes before a parade could start there. No casualties were reported, Sharma said.
The outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (search), which had called for a boycott of Independence Day celebrations, was suspected of being behind the two attacks, Inspector General of Police Khagen Sharma said. The group has been fighting for a separate homeland since 1979 in an insurgency that has left more than 10,000 dead.
Nobody claimed responsibility for Sunday's rocket attack in Kashmir, but police blamed it on Islamic rebels fighting for Kashmir's independence from India or its merger with Pakistan since 1989.
When the rocket hit, children had gathered to watch an Independence Day ceremony organized by the Indian army at a school in Dangiwachi village, some 45 miles north of Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu-Kashmir state.
The 17 people wounded included two soldiers, police officer Riaz Ahmad said.
Singh said his government would take a tough stand on terrorism.
"We will fight terrorism forcefully. Let there be no doubt about it. But if a group is ready to give up arms and talk to us, we are ready," Singh said, speaking at the 17th century Red Fort, a tradition followed by each prime minister since India gained independence from two centuries of British colonial rule on Aug. 15, 1947.
Singh said cross-border terrorism is hindering the India-Pakistan peace process, but promised to continue efforts to end five decades of hostility between the South Asian nuclear-armed neighbors.
"It is our intention to carry forward with firm resolve and sincerity the composite dialogue process with Pakistan," Singh said.
Helicopters patrolled the skies while nearly 65,000 police and paramilitary troops were deployed on the ground to prevent any attack in the capital. The police blocked streets throughout central New Delhi and the airspace over the city was closed for five hours.
More than a dozen Islamic guerrilla groups have been fighting in Kashmir, a disputed Himalayan territory that is divided between India and Pakistan, since 1989. At least 65,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the conflict.
India accuses Pakistan of training and arming the Islamic militants, a charge Pakistan denies.
An umbrella group of separatist organizations, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, called for a general protest strike in Kashmir on Sunday, as they do each Independence Day, to express their rejection of Indian sovereignty.
After coming close to fighting a fourth war in 2002, Pakistan and India embarked on a peace process aimed at resolving their differences, including their conflicting claims to all of Jammu-Kashmir.