Lucknow, Nov 23 (UNI) At least 13 people were killed and more than 60 injured as terrorists targeted the judiciary in Uttar Pradesh, triggering six powerful blasts at district courts in Lucknow, Varanasi and Faizabad within a space of 15 minutes.
Terorists detonated the six explosive devices, placed on bicycles in the courts' premises, in a synchronised manner between 1315 hrs and 1330 hrs.
Varanasi was rocked by three blasts which claimed nine lives and left 45 injured while four people died and 14 were wounded in the two explosions in Faizabad. However, in Lucknow, one blast failed to cause any damage while the other explosive was detected by the disposal squad and defused.
Chief Minister Mayawati blamed the central intelligence agencies for their failure to tip off the state government and said the blasts were triggered to create disturbances. She described the blasts as ''a failure of central intelligence agencies''.
''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.
''Several of those injured are in a critical condition and efforts are being made to provide them the best medical treatment,'' Ms Mayawati, who has rushed to Faizabad, said.
A high alert was sounded across the country and security stepped up following an advisory by the Centre to the states.
The state government has announced an ex-gratia of Rs two 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 would carry out the probe.
Meanwhile, a new terrorist group, Guru-al-Hind, took the responsibility for the blasts and blamed lawyers (their main target) for failing to protect the innocent. The organisation said it was homegrown group of Mujahadeen without any links with foreign terrorist organisations.
Vice President Hamid Ansari strongly condemned the simultaneous blasts.
In a message sent from Kampala in Uganda, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned the serial explosions and announced relief for the victims. Dr Singh announced an ex-gratia relief of Rs one lakh for the next of kin of the dead and Rs 50,000 for the seriously injured from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund.
Home Minister Shivraj Patil also condemned the blasts. Minister of State for Home Sriprakash Jaiswal told reporters the explosions appeared to be the handiwork of terrorists who wanted to divide the country on communal lines. The Home Ministry is in touch with the Uttar Pradesh government, a ministry spokesman said here. Mr Jaiswal is also visiting Varanasi tonight to assess the situation.
Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta spoke to the Director General of Police of the state who informed that the state police was looking into the blasts. The Centre is rushing its teams, including forensic teams and NSG, to the blast sites, he added.