Ahmedabad/Mumbai, Sep 30 (IANS) At least four people were killed and several injured in seperate blasts in two communally sensitive towns in Gujarat and Maharashtra late Monday night hours before the start of the festival season, police said.
Police officials said that while the blast in Modasa town of Gujarat's Sabarkantha district that claimed one life and injured seven was caused by a crude bomb, the blast in Maharashtra's Malegaon town could have been a cooking gas cylinder explosion.
The blasts, coming as they did hours before the start of the Navratri festival, prompted the authorities to sound an alert across western India. The Eid-ul-Fitr that marks the end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, will be celebrated Wednesday or Thurday.
Police in Gujarat said that two men came on a motorcycle and threw the bomb at the Suka market in Modasa, around 80 km from Ahmedabad, at 9.30 p.m.
The blast was so severe that it destroyed two motorcycles parked nearby and an electric pole, police said. it led to panic among shoppers in the market.
The victim was identified as Jainuddin Ghori, 17.
The police cordoned off the area and a sniffer dog squad was rushed along with the bomb disposal squad.
District Superintendent of Police R.P. Brahmbhatt was supervising investigations at the spot even as senior police officials from Ahmedabad rushed to the town.
The explosion comes close on the heels of recovery of 17 crude bombs from Kalupur area of Ahmedabad earlier in the day.
While the police were not sure of the nature of the blast, they said it seemed similar to the one in Mehrauli in south Delhi Saturday. The low-intensity crude bomb blast in Delhi had killed a boy.
No group had yet claimed responsibility for the explosion, police said.
Gujarat Minister of State for Home Amit Shah condemned the blast and said the situation in Modasa was under control.
Shah as well as District Collector M. Thennarasan confirmed one death in the blast
In Malegaon town of neighbouring Maharashtra, at least three people were killed and 20 injured when a cooking gas cylinder exploded Monday night, police said.
Inspector General of Police (Nashik) S.P. Gupta said the nature of the blast was not known, but preliminary investigations pointed to a gas cylinder explosion
The explosion occurred in a crowded market area near the Noorani Masjid in Malegaon, about 350 km from Mumbai, when the area was bustling with shoppers ahead of Eid ul Fitr, police said. The panic after the blast led to a stempede in which 60 people including three policemen were injured, police said.
Unconfirmed reports said the police had to fire in the air to control the panicked crowd.
The injured were rushed to hospitals while the spot was cordonned off and police started their investigators.
Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil had earlier said the nature of the blast was not known and the police were investigating the matter. He said additional police forces were sent to the communal sensitive town, which had witnessed a bomb blast about two years ago.