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Terror strikes Varanasi
*20 dead, 50 hurt in blasts *Alert in states *PM, Kalam appeal for calm
Tribune News Service & Agencies

Policemen inspect the site of a bomb blast at the Varanasi railway station as a series of explosions rocked the holy city on Tuesday.
Policemen inspect the site of a bomb blast at the Varanasi railway station as a series of explosions rocked the holy city on Tuesday. — PTI photo

Varanasi/Lucknow/New Delhi, March 7
Terror struck this temple town when two bomb blasts in quick succession rocked the Sankatmochan shrine and the cantonment railway station this evening killing at least 20 persons and injuring over 50, some of them seriously.

The worst hit was the railway station where 14 persons were killed and 30 injured in a powerful explosion outside the waiting room at 6:25 PM on platform one where the Delhi-bound Shivaganga express train was stationary, official sources said.

Minutes before this, a bomb went off at the famous Sankatmochan temple when it was teeming with devotees. At least six persons were killed and 25 injured in the explosion.

All the injured were rushed to various hospitals in the city, many of them taken by good samaritans, as the police cordoned off the sites.

The blast at the temple set out panic and a near-stampede situation as devotees scrambled to rush out to safety and workers ferried bleeding injured persons, including several old women, to the hospital.

Rescue workers struggled in narrow lanes and bylanes to bring out the injured from the incident site.

Immediately after the blasts, the police was put on high alert throughout the country with security being beefed up at places of worship, vital installations and government buildings. The Centre also issued an advisory to all the states to take steps to ensure law and order and to specially see that there was no communal flare-up.

The blast at the railway station was so powerful that it created a one-foot deep crater and smashed window panes and wooden structures. The area was splattered with blood and scattered with body parts and passengers, belongings soaked in blood.

There was unconfirmed report of a second blast at the railway station. Four live bombs were defused near Dashaswhamedh Ghat, 2 km away from the Kashi Vishwanath temple.

Shivaganga train was thoroughly checked before it left for Delhi.

President A P J Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned the blast and asked the people to maintain calm.

UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil are rushing for an on-the-spot assessment of the situation.

Reports also said a bomb was found in a bag in a restaurant near the Bank of Baroda building near the main market. The area has been sealed. Workers ferried bleeding injured persons, including several old women, to nearby hospitals.

Tension was immediately felt in Lucknow as news of the blasts reached here. Shutters quickly came down in the up market Hazratganj area as well as the still tense Aminabad, Qaiserbagh and Nazirabad areas. Shopkeepers and shoppers panicked on hearing the news from Varanasi and the markets wore a deserted look.

According to Secretary Home A.M Srivastava a special vigil is being kept on religious places, railway and bus stations. All the district magistrates and police chiefs have been informed to be on alert. They have also been asked to be watchful of rumours and maintain communal harmony.

Keeping a close watch on the situation in Varanasi, Home Minister Shivraj Patil spoke to Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Union Home Secretary V K Duggal also spoke to the state administration to take stock of the situation.

‘High alert’ has been sounded in the Capital with additional enforcements sent and patrolling increased at sensitive points.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (PCR) A.K. Singh said an alert had been sounded throughout the Capital and all precautionary steps taken in the wake of the blasts at Varanasi.

“PCR vans and police pickets have been asked to be extra vigilant and patrolling increased at important and busy market places,” he said.

Special emphasis was being put on railway stations, bus depots and the Metro, he added.

Meanwhile, the main Opposition party BJP held the “soft” policies of the UPA Government and the “minority appeasement politics” of the Samajwadi Party Government in Uttar Pradesh responsible for blasts.

Party President Rajnath Singh is leaving for Varanasi to personally study the situation, party spokesman Prakash Javadekar said.

The Chief Minister announced an ex gratia of Rs 5 lakh to those killed in the blasts, Rs 1 lakh to those seriously injured and Rs 50,000 to those with minor injuries.

A red alert was been sounded throughout Uttar Pradesh in view of the blasts.


Punjab, Haryana on alert
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 7
The Punjab Police has sounded an alert outside all religious places while the Haryana Police has sounded an alert outside communally sensitive areas in the wake of blasts in Varanasi today.

Senior functionaries of the Punjab Police have asked police officials in the field to keep a watch on religious places of all communities. In Haryana similar orders have been issued as the state borders Uttar Pradesh and several sensitive areas are contiguous.

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