Serial blasts rock Mahabodhi temple complex in Bihar, one detained; NIA begins probe

One person was detained on Sunday evening for questioning, hours after a series of blasts rocked the Mahabodhi temple in Bihar`s Bodh Gaya town.

Zee Media Bureau

Bodh Gaya: One person was detained on Sunday for questioning, hours after a series of blasts rocked the Mahabodhi temple here in Bihar, according to news reports.

"One person has been detained and he is being interrogated," Bihar DGP Abhayanand said to a news agency.

Meanwhile, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) team reached here today evening and began its probe into the serial blasts in the Mahabodhi temple, police officials said.

As the probe is progressing, Bihar Police has said that monks will continue their prayers in the Mahabodhi temple but it will remain shut for the public. The sanctum sanctorum of the temple has not been damaged by the blasts, says Bihar DGP Abhayanand.

"Only Buddhist monks were allowed in to offer prayers in the temple as usual. The government has decided not to discontinue the regular prayers and worship by monks in the temple," said Bihar police chief.

Security has been beefed at the temple and adjoining areas, DGP Abhayanand told reporters, adding CCTV footage was being examined for leads to the terrorists.

The temple would, however, open tomorrow as usual for pilgrims and tourists after the NIA team completes the process of collecting evidence from the site. There was no damage to the structure of the Mahabodhi temple after the blast took place.

Earlier in the day, at least eight explosions rocked Mahabodhi temple complex.

The two injured monks, one from Tibet and the other a national of Myanmar, were admitted to Magadh Medical College and Hospital, Arvind Singh, a member of Mahabodhi Temple Management Committee said.

Singh said two bombs, one near the 80 feet statue and another at a bus stand have been defused.

Asked about the nature of explosives used, SK Bharadwaj, ADG (Law and Order) said they were low intensity time bombs.

"We got information about six-seven months back that there may be a terror attack on the Mahabodhi Temple. After that we had beefed up security and deployed extra forces", police said.

At the temple, security arrangements by police are only outside the temple while the security inside is looked after by temple trust officials, a senior police official said.

An official of the Bodh Gaya committee said, "There were four blasts inside the temple premises. Fortunately, there was no damage to the Bodhi Tree or the main temple structure."

"In the first blast which took place near the Bodhi tree, a table was blown up because of which two persons were injured. The second blast was inside an enclosure where books were kept. The furniture was damaged but there was no damage to the monuments or statues," he said.

Amongst the eight blasts, three of them took place outside Turgey Monastery, which is the seat of the 17th Karmapa.

The Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya is a very important pilgrimage centre for the Buddhists.

According to reports, intelligence inputs had been given to the state government about a possible threat to the Mahabodhi temple, following which the security was stepped up in the area.

The intelligence inputs had warned of a possible attack on Buddhists in India in the wake of developments in Myanmar.

The Mahabodhi Temple is frequented by Buddhist pilgrims from Sri Lanka, China and Japan and the whole of southeast Asia.

The explosions, the first of its type to target the town and the temple, a UNESCO heritage site, took place between 5:30 and 5:58 AM. The explosives were set off by timers.

Last year, 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 IM may be behind today`s multiple blasts.

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.
"While four blasts took place inside the Mahabodhi Temple complex, three occurred in Karmapa monastery, one each near near the famous 80-ft Buddha statue and at the bus stand near bypass," Khan said.

Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said two live bombs were defused in the town. A third bomb, hidden in a cyclinder, was recovered from a village near Bodh Gaya hours after the blasts and defused.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who rushed to the blast site from Patna, about 100 kms from here, demanded deployment of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) for security of the shrine.

President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh strongly condemned the blasts, saying such attacks on religious places will "never be tolerated".

Hours after the multiple blasts, the Centre directed all states to ensure fool-proof security at Buddhist shrines and Tibetan settlements in the wake of the continuing violence between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar.

In an advisory to all states with special emphasis on cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune, the Home Ministry said adequate security must be provided to Buddhist shrines, Buddhist places of worships and Tibetian settlements.

Mahabodhi Temple, the target of serial blasts, has been closed for general public but the prayers will continue to be held as usual, Abhayanand said.

With PTI inputs