Some of the deadliest eruptions of violence in the revolt-racked region in years, the attacks came as India commemorated the birth of the country's independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, a champion of non-violence.

The bloodshed began early on Saturday in Dimapur, the commercial hub of Nagaland, when three bombs exploded almost simultaneously, killing 26 people and injuring 86 in what an official called the "worst ever terrorist strike" in the tiny state's history.

"There were limbs everywhere and blood was splattered all over," said student leader T Zheviho, who was at the crowded Dimapur rail station where one bomb went off as passengers waited for a train.

The blast left a massive crater in its wake.

More attacks

In neighbouring Assam state, 18 people were killed and 32 injured in a wave of attacks, mainly in the late afternoon.

Armed men opened fire on shoppers at a market in Makri Jhora village, 290km west of Assam state's main city of Guwahati, killing 11 and injuring about a dozen, police said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh deplored the bloodshed.

"It is distressing such violence broke out on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi"

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

"It is distressing such violence broke out on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi," Singh said in the capital New Delhi.

There were no claims of responsibility for the violence in the
insurgency-struck northeast where about 30 rebel groups are battling for greater autonomy or independence.

Authorities said they believed the attacks in the two states
were not related.

Rebels blamed

In Nagaland, authorities blamed the violence on rebels seeking
to disrupt the peace process. In neighbouring Assam, police said the attacks were carried out by the outlawed National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFP).

"The attacks are suspected to be the handiwork of the outlawed NDFP who want to make their presence felt ahead of the 18th anniversary of their founding tomorrow [Sunday]," Assam inspector-general of police Khagen Sharma said.

The area has been rocked by a
separatist insurgency

The NDFP is fighting for an independent homeland for the Bodo tribe in Assam, where the Bodo account for two million of the state's 26 million people.

Police said the high explosive RDX appeared to have been used in the railway blast in Dimapur.

Nagaland's ill-equipped hospitals battled to treat the wounded, many of whom where in a critical condition. "Many have multiple face and abdomen wounds. They're in a state of trauma. We've never had such a devastating emergency," said doctor T Lotha at a Dimapur hospital.

"This is the worst ever terrorist strike in Nagaland. People are
still dealing with the shock - they're not yet thinking about who to blame," said Nagaland Chief Minister Neibhiu Rio.

Peace process threatened

The attacks shattered the relative calm of the mainly farming
state of two million where a truce has been in effect with
Nagaland's largest separatist group - the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) - since 1997.

"The blasts are aimed at derailing the peace process," the chief minister said.

New Delhi and the NSCN have been holding talks aimed at ending nearly six decades of insurgency in the state. Two rival factions of the NSCN denied involvement in the blasts.

More than 50,000 people have died in the northeast in over half a century of fighting between security forces and rebel groups.