Terrorists shattered the peace of the world-renowned Mahabodhi temple and surrounding pilgrim spots in Bodhgaya early Sunday, setting off nine blasts in 30 minutes despite numerous intelligence alerts of such an attack.
The blasts left two persons injured. While no group has owned responsibility, the home-grown Indian Mujahideen (IM) has once again emerged as the main suspect.
“The string of bombings seems like a terror attack,” minister of state for home affairs RPN Singh said, adding: “If there were shortcomings in following up the (intelligence) alerts, it will be looked into.”
Preliminary reports suggested the bombs — small LPG cylinders with timers — malfunctioned due to damp conditions.
They may have been timed to go off at prayer time. But with the glitch and with attendance thin, the damage was minimal.
The development also seemed to indicate the use of ammonium nitrate as the chemical tends to malfunction in humid or damp conditions, sources said.
The Mahabodhi temple had been on the watch-list of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Research and Analysis Wing since October.
Arrested IM operative Syed Maqbool had last year admitted to recceing the area as part of plans to target the shrine to avenge atrocities on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
Bodhgaya draws lakhs of Buddhist pilgrims from Myanmar and elsewhere in Asia.
There were at least three alerts from the IB between October and July and inputs from the Delhi and Kolkata Police and National intelligence Agency (NIA).
Following the alerts last year, the state administration had replaced the district police guards with special task force personnel.
Last month, the Bihar Police had inducted an additional battalion with dog and bomb squads. A specific alert for Bodh Gaya last month that also prompted a mock drill and security review.
Additional director general of police (law and order) SK Bhardwaj admitted headquarters had been receiving specific inputs from central agencies since August.
According to DGP Abhayanand, four bombs went off at the temple complex - including two under the Mahabodhi tree that left a Tibetan monk and a pilgrim from Myanmar injured - three around the Karmapa monastery complex 1.5 km to the west, one adjacent to the 80-foot Buddha statue and another on a UP roadways bus.
Three bombs were found and defused. The explosions were all within a 2-km radius and in quick succession between 5.30am and 6am.
A policeman looks at debris left after several low intensity explosions took place at the Bodh Gaya Buddhist temple complex injuring two people on July 07, 2013. AFP PHOTO/STR
The sanctum sanctorum and Mahabodi tree, under which Buddha gained enlightenment in 531 BC, did not suffer any damage.
By evening, security had been tightened and the temple sanitised. With no night vision provisions, CCTVs in the temple complex failed to record any footage.
Rain and bad weather delayed central teams from reaching Patna.