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Jul 08, 2013 at 09:12am IST

Mahabodhi temple blasts: 1 detained, NIA begins probe, IM's role suspected

Bodh Gaya: Investigation has begun and police have detained one person in Kolkata for questioning in connection with the Sunday's terror attack on the Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya, Bihar. The person is suspected to have links with the Indian Mujahideen.

Following an advisory by the government, security of all states with Buddhist population and sites has been increased.

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Terror struck the world renowned religious site of Bodh Gaya, Bihar in the early hours on Sunday as a series of nine explosions in and around the famous Mahabodhi temple left two monks injured. "Two monks from Tibet and Myanmar were injured in the attack," an eyewitness said.

Prayers were held for the injured at the Mahabodhi temple on Monday morning.

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The 1500-year-old temple, which is a UNESCO World heritage site, and the Bodhi Tree, under which Lord Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment, did not suffer any damage in the blasts which shook the holy town frequented by Buddhist pilgrims from Sri Lanka, China, Japan and the whole of southeast Asia.

An NIA team reached Bodh Gaya on Sunday evening to begin its probe. "While four blasts took place inside the Mahabodhi temple, three occurred at Karmapa monastery and one each near near the famous 80-ft Buddha statue and under a tourist bus," Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said on Sunday.

Two live bombs were recovered later in the morning on Sunday, while a third was found near Bodh Gaya's Baiju Bigaha area late Sunday afternoon. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who rushed to the blast site from Patna, about 100 kms from Gaya, demanded deployment of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) for security of the shrine.

"We had increased the security of the Mahabodhi temple. CCTV cameras were put in place. But after this incident, we will take further steps to strengthen its security," Nitish Kumar said.

However, no group has claimed responsibility for what the Centre and state government have described as a terror attack in a region where Maoists have a strong foothold. In 2012, the Delhi Police claimed to have foiled a 'fidayeen' attack in the town with the arrest of suspected Indian Mujahideen (IM) elements to avenge "atrocities" against Muslims in Myanmar. Security agencies suspect that Indian Mujahideen may be behind Sunday's multiple blasts.

Sources said that even the Intelligence Bureau (IB) had issued an alert in June of a possible attack on the Mahabodhi temple.

Bihar Police chief Abhayanand said no harm has come to the sanctum sanctorum of the famous Buddhist temple, but some peripheral damage has occurred. Asked why the blasts could not be averted even after an alert by IB, the state's top policeman said security was increased after the inputs were received but added "every incident is a learning experience".

However, Delhi Police claimed it had alerted its Bihar counterpart and intelligence agencies about Bodh Gaya temple being on the radar of terror outfits. "The input was given on the basis of information we had obtained from a group of IM terrorist arrested in 2012 in the Pune blasts case," said the Delhi police official.

According to the police, IM operatives had told them that they were planning Pune-like blasts in Delhi and Bihar for which they had specifically spent around two weeks doing a recce of the temple town. The officer also said that a team of Delhi Police is planning to visit Bodh Gaya to share the information it had received from IM operatives with the security agencies investigating the blasts.

BJP and other opposition parties accused the Centre and the Bihar government of having failed to take steps to avert the terror strike at the Mahabodhi temple despite specific warnings of intelligence agencies.

Terming the series of blasts at Mahabodhi temple complex in Bihar as "unfortunate", Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Sunday said "few individuals" could be behind the attack. "The incident is really unfortunate," he said, adding that few individuals could be responsible for the attack.

(With additional information from PTI)