AECNEWS

Bombs blast Buddhist temple in Bodh Gaya, India

 

A series of small bombs went off in and around a world-famous Buddhist temple in eastern India Sunday, injuring two people, authorities said.

At least two people have been wounded after multiple low-intensity blasts hit a Buddhist temple complex in the eastern state of Bihar, police say.

Four of the eight explosions occurred at the Mahabodhi temple complex, a 2002 UNESCO World Heritage site in Bihar state that houses a tree where Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment.

The first bomb exploded at around 5:30am and the remaining blasts took place an interval of two minutes. Around 200 Buddhist pilgrims were present in the temple when the explosions took place.

The other four blasts hit other sacred locations around Mahabodhi, said Bihar police official S.K. Bhardwaj.

"The holy bodhi tree is safe and there is no damage to it," Bihar police chief Abhayanand told the AFP news agency while confirming the blasts and injuries. However, a gate at one of the shrines was badly damaged.

A 50-year-old Tibetan and a 30-year-old Myanmar national were injured in the attack and were taken to a hospital, Bhardwaj said.

The Mahabodhi temple is a very important pilgrimage site for Buddhists in Bodh Gaya. The site attracts thousands of pilgrims every year, the centre of attraction being a huge tree under which Buddha was supposed to have sat and gained enlightenment. Bodh Gaya is located about 96 km from the state capital Patna.

The temple complex houses the holy bodhi tree as well as the giant Mahabodhi statue of Buddha, and multiple shrines.

Indian Home Ministry earlier said that it was too early to confirm the incidents as a terror, but later Union home secretary Anil Goswami confirmed that the Bodh Gaya blasts were a terror attack.

While no one took responsibility for the attack, suspicion fell on the home-grown Islamist group Indian Mujahideen, Bhardwaj said. The group, designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, is blamed for dozens of deadly bomb explosions throughout India since 2005.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has condemned the blasts at the complex saying "such attacks on religious places will never be tolerated."

The national government has sent two teams of investigators to probe the blasts, said Goswami, the top interior ministry official.

District police official N H Khan told AFP that "additional security forces were deployed" while the NDTV channel reported that two other unexploded devices had been discovered.