Source AP ©

Simultaneous blasts kill at least 4 in India

Several near-simultaneous explosions shook courthouses Friday in three cities in India's north, with blasts going off in Lucknow, Varanasi and Faizabad, killing at least four people, officials said.

At least two bombs went off in Faizabad, killing four lawyers and injuring 10 to 12 more, said R.N. Singh, a local police officer. One of the bombs was rigged to a motorcycle, he said. Faizabad is near the town of Ayodhya, where Hindu extremists destroyed the 16th century Babri Mosque in 1992, sparking widespread Hindu-Muslim riots.

At least 12 lawyers were injured in the explosion in Varanasi, one of India's holiest cities, said Vipin Mishra, spokesman for the Home Ministry of Uttar Pradesh state, where all three cities are located.

The blasts went off less than 15 minutes apart inside court complexes, but not in courtrooms, Mishra said.

"This is the handiwork of some group that wants to disturb communal harmony in the state," the junior federal home minister, Sriprakash Jaiswal, told reporters. "They may have targeted the courts because large crowds gather in courthouses here."

A series of terrorist bombings have ripped across India in the past two years. In August, a pair of explosions killed 43 people in the southern city of Hyderabad. In July 2006, bombs in seven Mumbai commuter trains killed more than 200 people.

Police named no immediate suspects in the Friday explosions, but bombings are commonly blamed on Pakistan-based Muslim militants hoping to create tensions between India's Hindu majority and Muslim minority.

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