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India police make arrest over temple bombs

A peace vigil is held in Allahabad on July 7, 2013, following a series of blasts at the Bodh Gaya temple
A peace vigil is held in Allahabad on July 7, 2013, following a series of blasts at the Bodh Gaya temple. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but police arrested a local man who was being questioned in connection with the blasts.

Indian police arrested a man on Monday over weekend bomb attacks targeting one of Buddhism's holiest sites and were studying CCTV footage that appeared to show two men planting explosives.

The Indian government condemned the "terror attack" after multiple small bombs exploded at the historic Bodh Gaya Buddhist temple complex on Sunday morning, wounding two monks at the pilgrimage destination in eastern Bihar state.

"The police are doing everything to identify the two persons on the basis of the CCTV footage," local police official Chandan Kushwaha told AFP.

Security camera footage released of the complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site, also showed pilgrims running from the scene after one of the blasts.

Indian Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said 10 bombs exploded at the site, increasing the previous number from nine, with three more devices discovered and defused.

"Today, I have the information of 10 blasts. A total of 13 bombs were placed there... (but) I will not go into details where they were kept," Shinde told reporters.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but police arrested a local man who was being questioned in connection with the blasts.

"A man identified as Vinod Mistri was taken into custody in connection with the serial bomb blasts in Bodh Gaya," state police official S.K. Bharadwaj told AFP.

A policeman looks at debris at the Bodh Gaya Buddhist temple complex, on July 7, 2013
A policeman looks at debris from bomb attacks at India's Bodh Gaya Buddhist temple complex, on July 7, 2013. Police have arrested a man over the attacks and are studying CCTV footage that appears to show two men planting explosives.

Police picked up Mistri in the Barachatti area, a stronghold of Maoist insurgents 130 kilometres (80 miles) south of the state capital Patna, Bharadwaj said.

Delhi police said they had earlier warned officials that Islamic militants could target the temple complex as revenge for unrest involving Buddhists and Muslims in neighbouring Myanmar.

Attacks on Buddhists are rare in India, but there have been tensions in the region recently following the clashes in Myanmar, as well as frictions in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Sri Lanka stepped up security on Monday for its holiest Buddhist temple, containing the sacred Sri Maha Bodhi tree, following the blasts in neighbouring India, police said.

"We have asked all units to be extra vigilant," a police official told AFP on condition of anonymity. "We had a discussion with the chief monks and decided on a string of new measures."

The Indian complex contains temples, a celebrated 80-feet-tall (24-metre) statue of the Buddha, and dozens of monasteries housing monks from around the world. It also contains the holy Bodhi tree, where Buddhists believe the Buddha reached enlightenment in 531 BC.

After his meditations beneath the tree, the Buddha is said to have devoted the rest of his life to teaching.

The complex houses multiple shrines marking the places where Buddha is said to have spent time after his enlightenment. He founded an order of monks before dying aged 80.

The complex, 110 kilometres south of Patna, is one of the earliest Buddhist temples still standing in India.

The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, makes frequent trips to the complex, which attracts visitors during the peak tourist season from October to March.

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