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Dozens Killed by Blasts in Western India


A series of bombings in a town in western India has killed at least 22 people and injured dozens more. The blasts come just days after the Indian Prime Minister warned that the country faces a growing terror threat.

Indian police say the blasts ripped through a crowded marketplace near a mosque in the heart of the town of Malegoan in Maharashtra state soon after thousands of Muslims had offered Friday prayers.

The explosions occurred as Muslims observed the festival of Shabe Barat, when they hold prayers throughout the night for the dead and seek divine blessings.

A curfew was imposed as tensions rose after the explosions and angry crowds shouted slogans and pelted policemen with stones.

Maharashtra's top police official, P.S. Pasricha says security has been tightened to prevent further violence. Pasricha says additional forces have been rushed to the area and the entire state of Maharashtra has been put on high alert. He says the police want to ensure that "anti-national forces" do not try to create trouble in the community.

Malegaon town has a long history of religious violence between the majority Hindu and the minority Muslim community. It lies about 300 kilometers northeast of India's financial hub, Mumbai.

Security has been tight in Maharashtra state since coordinated bombs ripped through commuter trains in Mumbai in July, killing at least 180 people.

The explosions in Malegaon come three days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said intelligence agencies had warned terror groups could hit economic, religious and nuclear targets in the country, and asked state governments to improve security.

Also Friday, Indian police said they had seized a large haul of weapons in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh that included 600 rockets meant for Maoist rebels.

In this week's security statement, the prime minister also said the Maoist rebels in India's southern and eastern states pose a growing threat.

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