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Blasts Hit Three Northern Indian Cities, Killing at Least 13


Nearly simultaneous blasts outside courts in three northern Indian cities killed at least 13 people and injured dozens more. As Anjana Pasricha reports from VOA's New Delhi bureau, several cities have suffered bomb attacks in recent years.

Police say the explosions went off around lunchtime Friday within 15 minutes of each other in three cities in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

In all three cities, Lucknow, Varanasi and Faizabad, the explosions targeted court complexes. Several of those killed or injured were lawyers. Lucknow is the capital of Uttar Pradesh state. Varanasi is one of India's holiest Hindu cities. Faizabad is the twin city of Ayodhya, which has been a flashpoint for Hindu-Muslim tensions ever since an ancient Muslim mosque was destroyed by a Hindu mob 16 years ago.

Police described the explosions in Varanasi and Faizabad as powerful ones. Television footage showed wreckage strewn in the areas hit by the blasts, and wounded being carried to hospitals.

India's junior federal home minister, Sriprakash Jaiswal, said the fact that the blasts took place around the same time proved it was a conspiracy.

He said the motive behind the blasts could be to disrupt communal harmony in the country, to spread terror and to create an atmosphere of fear. Minister Jaiswal said the devices might have been planted in courts because big crowds are usually present outside courthouses.

A spokesman for the Uttar Pradesh Bar Association speculated that the courts might have been targeted because lawyers in the state had decided earlier this year not to defend any terror suspects.

Several towns and cities across the country have been hit by blasts in recent years. In August, explosions killed 43 people in the southern city of Hyderabad. In Mumbai last year, more than 200 people died when bombs were placed inside commuter trains.

Authorities blamed the attacks on Pakistan-based Islamic groups, which have waged a separatist insurgency in Indian Kashmir for nearly two decades. Officials say that these militant groups want to spark riots or clashes between India's majority Hindu community and minority Muslims.

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