Singh urges calm after temple bombing, LeT suspected
Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, has urged people to remain calm after bombings that killed at least 20, according to the Associated Press.
The attacks happened on Tuesday evening in a packed railway station and crowded temple in Hinduism's holiest city, raising fears of communal violence between majority Hindus and minority Muslims.
Hindu groups allied to the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party called for a general strike in the state on Wednesday to protest against the blasts.
The first bomb went off in the packed Sankat Mochan temple where hundreds of devotees of the Hindu deity Hanuman had gathered for evening prayers.
The second exploded at the city's cantonment railway station. Police had said on Tuesday that two bombs exploded at the station.
Yashpal Singh, the police chief of Uttar Pradesh state, where Varanasi is located, said he suspected the hand of Pakistan-based jihadi group, Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Indian TV channels said two Lashkar fighters were shot dead overnight by police in New Delhi and another Lashkar man was killed in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh's capital, but it was not known if they were connected to the Varanasi blasts.
Armed police mounted vigil at temples and public places across India and authorities said they had shut down schools and colleges as a precaution, but a Reuters reporter said traffic on the streets of the ancient city appeared normal.
Prem Lata, 65-year-old housewife, said: "People are moving around. Puja (worship) is going on in the temples. There is no problem now."
Temple-studded Varanasi, 670km southeast of the capital New Delhi, is on the banks of the holy Ganges river.
Hindus believe that dying in Varanasi, being cremated on the banks of the Ganges and the ashes immersed in the river ensures release from the cycle of rebirth. Many elderly and ill people come to the city if they believe they are close to death.
Posted by: Dan Darling 2006-03-08