Blast kills two in India's restive northeast

GUWAHATI, India (AFP) - A powerful explosion Thursday killed two people and wounded another six at a crowded market in India's restive northeast that has been plagued for decades by separatist violence, police said.

Police suspected a local militant group behind the blast that shook the the heart of Imphal, capital of the state of Manipur, which borders Myanmar.

"Two persons were killed and six injured in the blast and we suspect it to be an improvised explosive device," Clay Khongsai, senior Manipur police official, told AFP by telephone from Imphal. "Definitely one of the valley based militant group must have carried out the attack," he added.

The motive for the explosion was not immediately known. No rebel group has yet claimed responsibility. The two fatalities had come to Imphal to sell vegetables at a market run by women in the area, while two of the six injured were women vendors.

The remote state has long been affected by insurgent violence and is home to dozens of tribal groups and small guerrilla armies fighting New Delhi's rule.

They often compete against each other in turf wars for dominance in the state.

At least 50,000 people have lost their lives in insurgency-driven violence in six of India's seven northeastern states since the country's independence from Britain in 1947, authorities say.

The militants say the northeast has been largely neglected by India's political leaders, accusing them of focusing only on the development of the country's relatively wealthier eight northern states.