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Asia

Attacks cast shadow over holy Buddhist site

One of India's holiest sites has been struck by terror attacks. Investigators believe the serial blasts which injured two monks could be the result of the struggle between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar.

Within hours of the 10 explosions that shattered the tranquility of the Buddhist pilgrimage town of Bodhgaya in the eastern state of Bihar, India's interior ministry advised all state authorities, particularly those with Buddhists populations, to be on full alert and deployed additional security around key religious shrines.

Increase in security

"There have been intelligence inputs that some Islamist groups were planning to target Buddhists and their religious sites with foreigners in mind […] This follows the continuing sectarian violence between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar," a senior home ministry official told DW on conditions of anonymity.

A Myanmar Buddhist monk holds a sign as he takes part in a demonstration against the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in Yangon on October 15, 2012. (Photo: AFP)

Investigators fear that simmering tensions in Myanmar may have repercussions in India

Two monks, a 50-year-old Tibetan and a 30-year-old Myanmar national, are currently hospitalized. Experts from the National Investigation Agency have so far interrogated a man for the attacks that were carried out on Sunday, July 8, and studied television footage, appearing to show two men planting explosives at the site.

This is the first time that the government has issued an advisory about possible attacks in the wake of the clashes in Myanmar and intelligence officials believe radical terror groups could trigger further violence.

Although attacks on Buddhists are uncommon in India, simmering tensions in the wider region may have repercussions, security experts say, referring to recent clashes between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

A disturbing sign

Just a month ago, the intelligence bureau had warned the Bihar state government that the Islamic militant group Indian Mujahideen could target the temple complex. Arjun Kumar, a security expert from the New Delhi-based Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses believes that this strike had a bigger message.

"We cannot take this attack lightly. Tibetan settlements and other religious places are now on the security radar. This is a new level of terror and we have faced and could be worrying," Kumar told DW.

Tibetan spiritual leader his Holiness The Dalai Lama speaks in front of the Brandenburg Gate on April 19, 2008 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo: Getty Images)

Extra security has been put in place for the Dalai Lama

As a precautionary move, the government immediately scaled up security for Tibetan spiritual leader who is a frequent visitor to the Bodhgaya town for teachings and religious functions. Extra forces have been put in place for the Dalai Lama who celebrated his 78th birthday over the weekend.

The famous Buddhist shrine, 110 kilometers south of the state capital Patna, is one of the oldest temples still standing in India. The complex houses the sacred fig, or bodhi, tree as well as the giant Mahabodhi statue of Buddha and multiple shrines marking the places where he is believed to have spent time after his enlightenment.

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