India convicts militants over bomb attacks in 2008 that killed 88

GUWAHATI, INDIA (AFP) - Fourteen militants from an armed separatist group were found guilty on Monday (Jan 28) of orchestrating a coordinated bomb attack in India's north-east in 2008 that killed 88 people and wounded hundreds more.

The accused were charged with multiple murder and explosives offences by a special court in restive Assam state, where eleven bombs were detonated in quick succession in October 2008 in one of the state's worst militant attacks.

At least 500 people were injured in the attack by the National Democratic Front of Bodoland, one of dozens of armed groups in Assam waging an insurgency against New Delhi.

The militants will be sentenced on Wednesday, and could face the death penalty for the attack.

Investigators had named 22 accused in the bombing, but just 15 were tracked down to face a years-long trial involving hundreds of witnesses in Guwahati, the state capital.

Ranjan Daimary, the chief of the Bodoland separatists, was among the 14 convicted on Monday. One of the accused was acquitted.

Mr N.S. Yadav, a chief officer from India's Central Bureau of Investigations, said hundreds of witnesses had helped build a detailed and lengthy case against the accused.

Daimary fled to Bangladesh after the bombings, which went off around noon in crowded marketplaces in Guwahati and other parts of the state, inflicting huge casualties.

He was extradited in 2010 and detained, but released on bail in 2013 to participate in a failed peace dialogue with New Delhi.

The separatist group formed in the 1980s to fight for a separate homeland for the Bodos, an ethno-linguistic community native to Assam numbering roughly 1.2 million.

The group has since splintered into factions. Some fight for outright independence but others - including Daimary's faction - want to carve out a separate state within Assam under Indian rule.

Government forces have battled various militant groups in Assam for decades. They fight for a range of issues, from secession to a greater share for their ethnic communities.

Bengali and Hindi-speaking settlers are frequently targeted by tribal and ethnic groups native to the hilly, northeastern state of 30 million people.

Indigenous Assamese claim immigrants have taken jobs, lands and the state's natural resources.