Lucknow, Nov 23: In a planned operation, terrorists today carried out near-simultaneous six powerful blasts at district courts in Lucknow, Varanasi and Faizabad, killing at least 13 people and injuring more than 60.
Chief Minister Mayawati blamed the central intelligence agencies for their failure to tip-off the state government before hand and said the blasts were triggered to create disturbances.
The six explosive devices, placed on bicycles in the courts' premises went off in the space of 15 minutes--between 1315 hrs and 1330 hrs.
Briefing the media Ms Mayawati said while three blasts rocked Varanasi civil court premises, two explosions occurred in the Faizabad court. In Lucknow, while one explosive went off, another was detected by the bomb disposal squad soon after the first blast.
''Timer devices were used in all the blasts and the explosives were kept on bicycles,'' she said. The unexploded bomb found in Lucknow was also armed with a timer.
The Uttar Pradesh Government has declared a high alert and the Special Task Force (STF) and the state police have been assigned the responsibility of tracking down the culprits. Two people were killed in Varanasi, one died in Faizabad . But official sources from Faizabad said four people were killed in the blast. In Lucknow, one person was injured. However, sources in Varanasi confirmed having counted the bodies of five victims in hospital.
In the three blasts in Varanasi, nine people lost their lives, while 45 were injured. In Faizabad, the two blasts claimed four and injured 14 others. In Lucknow the blast failed to cause any damage and there was no loss of life. ''Several of those injured are in a critical condition and efforts are being made to provide them the best medical treatment,'' Ms Mayawati said.
''No terrorist organisation has so far claimed responsibility for the blasts,'' the Chief Minister added.
The state government has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each to the next of those killed and Rs 50,000 to each of the injured.
The Special Task Force (STF) and the state police have been assigned the responsibility to track down the culprits.
In Malegaon(Maharastra), the terrorists had triggered explosion, using a newly purchased cycle on September 8, 2006 in which about 38 people were killed and over 100 injured.
''The casualty figure is likely to go up,'' said a police official.
In Varanasi, the blasts occurred at the district court premises where BJP MLA Ajay Rai was present in connection with a case.
Soon after the blasts, work in all courts of the state was suspended in apprehension of more explosions.
The convoy of state police chief Vikram Singh was stopped while he was returning from the Lucknow civil court by agitating lawyers.
The DGP had gone to assess the damage.
''I believe it is the handiwork of groups who are trying to spread terror in our country,'' Minister of state for Home Sriprakash Jaiswal told reporters in New Delhi.
In all the three cities, lawyers had beaten up terrorists arrested there in the recent past. The lawyers had manhandled terrorists in Varanasi, blamed for the March, 2006 blasts. In Faizabad, they had refused to fight cases of terrorists involved in the 'fidayeen' attack on the 'makeshift' Ramlala Temple on July 5, 2004.
A few days ago, lawyers in Lucknow had heckled three JeM terrorists charged with conspiracy to kidnap a UP VVIP politician.
This is the second time serial blasts have occurred in the state this year. On May 23, 2007, a series of blasts had hit the communally sensitive eastern UP town of Gorakhpur. The blasts had taken place soon after Ms Mayawati took over as the Chief Minister.
On March 7, 2006, serial blasts in Varanasi had killed 20 people.
Meanwhile, Principal Secretary (Home) J N Chamber said except for one all the deceased in the explosion have been identified.
In Varanasi, the dead have been identified as Bhola Nath Singh, Brahma Prakash Sharma, Buddhiraj Verma(all advocates), Kamruzama alias Guddu, Yagh Narain Singh, Manoj, Khatvaru Yadav and Ajay Kumar Pandey. One body in Varanasi is yet to be identified.
In Faizabad the deceased are Radhika Prasad(advocate), Om Prakash (stamp vendor), Lal Sahib (client) and Sabu Ram(Munshi).
State chief secretary P K Mishra was camping in Varanasi, while DGP Vikram Singh and ADG (law and order) Brijlal have rushed to Faizabad.