Five killed and more than 80 injured in blasts at political rally at Patna in India

An investigation has been launched after up to six devices exploded close to the park in the city of Patna

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The Independent Online

At least five people have been killed and dozens more injured after a series of low-intensity blasts were detonated at the site of a political rally shortly before India’s most controversial politician was due to speak.

An investigation has been launched after up to six devices exploded close to the park in the city of Patna where opposition politician Narendra Modi was to give to deliver a major election campaign address. Another small blast was set off earlier at a lavatory in the city’s train station.

Television footage showed plumes of white smoke hanging in the air while elsewhere people ran in panic to escape the scene. Mr Modi, who addressed the crowd without mentioning the blasts, later said on social media: “Blasts in Patna are deeply saddening and unfortunate. Condolences with families of deceased and prayers with injured. I appeal for peace and calm.”

The blasts took place as Mr Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime candidate for prime minister, was holding his first rally in the Indian state of Bihar since become the BJP’s official choice. The state, which contains 40 parliamentary seats, has become increasingly important as Mr Modi seeks to dislodge the ruling Congress party. Mr Modi appeared to have attracted large crowds.

Prakash Javedakar, a BJP spokesman and member of parliament, told The Independent, he believed the blasts were definitely linked to Mr Modi’s appearance, though he declined to speculate who may have set off the explosions. “It was a targeted attack,” he said.

The Press Trust of India reported that had least 66 people had been injured in the blasts. A bomb disposal expert were also said to have been injured while dismantling another device discovered at the railway station.

India’s Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, condemned the blasts and appealed for calm. He spoke to the chief minister of the state of  Bihar, Nitish Kumar, and asked him to ensure a rapid investigation.

“The Prime Minister has condemned the blasts in Patna and called for urgent steps to identify and take action against those responsible,” said a statement issued by Mr Singh’s office.

RPN Singh, a minister in the home ministry, told reporters that intelligence officials were assisting the investigation. It was reported that one suspect had been detained by police.  “I can’t say whether it was a terror attack or political conspiracy. Only after the investigation, we will be able to tell anything,” he said.

The blasts at the rally came as Mr Modi’s main rival, Rahul Gandhi, was addressing an election rally in Delhi. While Mr Gandhi has not been named as the prime ministerial candidate of the Congress party, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family is heading its election campaign.

Mr Modi’s rally was designed by the BJP to prove his popularity in a state which was declared largely off-limits for him by the chief minister, Mr Kumar and his party, the Janata Dal United. Mr Kumar who depends heavily on the support of Bihar’s Muslims, sought to distance himself from Mr Modi after hundreds of Muslims were killed the state of Gujarat in 2002.