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Terror strikes Varanasi; 28 killed, no claim yet

Witihin minutes of each other, two powerful bombs hit the holy city on Tuesday evening. Terror attacks in India | Religious places in terror trap | Pics | Speak up

india Updated: Mar 10, 2006 22:30 IST

Two powerful bombs went off within minutes of each other — at the famous Sankat Mochan temple and the Cantonment Railway Station — in Varanasi on Tuesday evening, killing at least 28 people and injuring 100 others.

Late-night reports said the death toll could be higher.

The first blast took place at the Sankat Mochan temple, near the Banaras Hindu University, around 6.15 pm. About 3,000 devotees had assembled at the temple to offer Tuesday aarti. At least four persons died on the spot. The bomb is believed to have been kept in a box.

Eyewitnesses said the blast created a stampede-like situation, with people running in panic. They gave accounts of a gory sight: blood on the floor and flesh strewn all over. They said many of the injured simply collapsed and had to be carried out.

 Appeal for calm

"People must maintain peace and calm." —Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

"This is a senseless act of violence"directed at innocent citizens of the country." — Congress President Sonia Gandhi

"Desperate attempt to disturb communal peace." — Home Minister Shivraj Patil

"Stern action will be initiated against all those found involved in the incident." — UP CM Mulayam Singh Yadav

The injured were taken to the nearby BHU hospital and other private hospitals. One of the injured has been identified as Qamar-ud-Din. Following the blast, the temple was sealed.

Around 20 minutes later, another powerful bomb rocked the waiting room on platform number one at the Cantonment Station. The Delhi-bound Shiv-Ganga Express, scheduled to leave at 7 pm, was at the platform. Reports said at least 10 were killed and over 40 people were critically injured in the blast. The impact of the blast was such that it left a crater on the platform.

"The entire place shook and soon there was flesh and blood lying everywhere," said a survivor. "It was a terrible scene. Five-six bodies were lying nearby."

Sources said the administration suspects RDX was used in the blasts - indicating involvement of terrorist organisations. However, till late night no group had claimed responsibility.

Even as the city was reeling from the shock, more live bombs were recovered -- from Gyanvapi Complex, from a restaurant in the Dashashwamedh area and two from the Cantonment Station restaurant. They were said to be timer devices.

Soon after the blasts, the city felt the after-effects: shopkeepers downed shutters and people started raising anti-Pakistan slogans, raising fears of a communal flare-up.

Additional policemen have been deployed in public places and vital installations, including airport, railway stations and bus stands, sources said. Patrolling has also been intensified throughout the city as precautionary measure.

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The security has also been stepped up in and around the sensitive Kashi Vishwanath Temple and Gyanvapi Mosque and additional forces have been deployed to monitor the activities of anti-social elements, sources said.

Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav condemned the blasts and announced a relief of Rs 5 lakh for the family of the deceased.

In Delhi, Union Home Secretary VK Duggal told reporters that the pattern of the Varanasi blasts was similar to the pre-Diwali serial explosions in Delhi last year.

President APJ Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned the blasts and appealed to the people to maintain peace. Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil rushed to Varanasi late in the night.

Immediately after the blasts, the police were put on high alert in several parts of the country.

(With inputs from Delhi)

First Published: Mar 10, 2006 22:30 IST