Gaya/New Delhi, (HT & Agencies): Nine serial blasts in a coordinated terror attack rocked the Mahabodhi temple complex in south central Bihar’s Buddhist pilgrimage town of Bodh Gaya early on Sunday, injuring two monks. Union home secretary Anil Goswami said the blasts were a terror attack.
Sources in the ministry of home affairs said there had been intelligence of a possible attack on the temple and the state was alerted last month.
State officials did not immediately confirm receiving any such alert.
While four blasts took place inside the Mahabodhi Temple complex, three occurred at the Karmapa monastery and one each near the 80-ft Buddha statue and at the bus stand near the bypass, Nayyer Hussnain Khan, deputy inspector general of police, Magadh range, told PTI.
“The blasts took place between 5:30 and 5:58am,” he said.
The 7th century AD Mahabodhi temple is regarded as one of the holiest Buddhist shrines and is a UNESCO world heritage site. Buddhists from all over the world visit the temple, which has the Bodhi tree under which Buddha is said to have reached enlightenment.
“The holy Bodhi tree is safe and there is no damage to it,” Bihar director general of police Abhayanand told AFP.
Gaya superintendent of police Chandan Kushwaha said two live bombs were recovered from the area of the blasts and defused. The Centre rushed a National Investigation Agency team to the site.
Local authorities said crude bombs had been used for the low-intensity explosions. No structural damage was reported to the temple.
Arvind Singh, a member of Mahabodhi Temple Management Committee, said the injured monks – a Myanmar national and a Tibetan were admitted to Magadh Medical College and Hospital. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and DGP Abhayanand is headed for Bodh Gaya, about 140 km southwest of capital Patna.
State additional director general of police (law and order) SK Bhardwaj said prima facie the serial blasts were the handiwork of some terrorist organisation.
No terrorist outfit has claimed responsibility for the attack so far. Gaya is also a Maoist stronghold.
Last year, security of the Mahabodhi temple was handed over to the Special Task Force (STF) of Bihar Police. Bodh Gaya is a high priority area and always has an adequate amount of security cover. Pilgrims are thoroughly checked before they enter the temple. Investigators are trying to ascertain the point of security breach.
Attacks on Buddhists are rare in India but there have been tensions in the wider region recently following clashes between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
The complex attracts visitors from around the world during the peak tourist season from October to March.