Nine explosions in a coordinated terrorist attack Sunday struck India’s holiest Buddhist shrine, the Mahabodhi temple complex in the pilgrimage town of Bodh Gaya, wounding two monks, police said.
No group has claimed responsibility, but Muslim extremists seeking revenge for attacks on the Muslim minority by Buddhists in Myanmar were suspected.
Buddhists from all over the world visit the temple, which has the Bodhi tree under which the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment. “The holy Bodhi tree is safe and there is no damage to it,” said the Bihar state director general of police, Abhayanand.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh strongly condemned the blasts, saying: "Such attacks on religious places will be never be tolerated." Political leaders and groups across India joined in the outrage.
The Mahabodhi Temple has been closed for the general public but the prayers will continue to be held as usual, Abhayanand told the Times of India. The Bodhgaya complex is one of the oldest Buddhist sites in India, visited by millions of pilgrims from the world over. It was listed as a world heritage site by Unesco in 2002.
The Bihar police said four blasts took place inside the Mahabodhi temple complex and three occurred at the Terega monastery, while one each were triggered near an 80-feet-tall Buddha statue and a vacant tourist bus parked close to the temple complex, the Hindustan Times reported.
The police said two more live bombs were defused in the town and a third in a village nearby. The Hindustan Times says that according to intelligence sources, Bodh Gaya has been in the crosshairs of Pakistan-based Islamic terrorists who want to avenge the violence against Rohingya Muslims in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar.
An official of India’s Intelligence Bureau said two terrorists, brothers originally from Bihar but based abroad in recent years, had entered the state to carry out terror attacks.