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Blasts at one of Buddhism's holiest sites: India police

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Multiple small bomb blasts hit the historic Bodh Gaya Buddhist temple complex in eastern India on Sunday, wounding two monks, police said, but the temple itself was not damaged.

Buddhists from all over the world visit the site in Bihar state, which is believed to house the tree under which the Buddha reached enlightenment in 531 BC.

"The holy bodhi tree is safe and there is no damage to it," Bihar police chief Abhayanand told AFP.

Senior police official S.K. Bharadwaj said, "eight low-intensity serial blasts took place early this morning, injuring two people".

Two more bombs were found and defused inside the complex, one of them near the temple's celebrated 80-feet-tall (24-metre) statue of the Buddha, Bharadwaj told AFP.

Attacks on Buddhists are rare in India but there have been tensions in the wider region recently following clashes between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Additional security forces have been deployed to guard the temple complex after the blasts, which wounded two monks, a 50-year-old Tibetan and a 30-year-old Burmese, Bharadwaj added.

Eyewitness and former local legislator Sarbajeet Kumar said he was on his daily morning walk to the temple when the bombs exploded.

"Suddenly I saw smoke and heard the sound of the blasts. I realised that something bad had happened and ran for shelter," he told local reporters.

Police said they were investigating the explosions.

The Bodh Gaya complex, 110 kilometres (68 miles) south of the state capital Patna, is one of the earliest Buddhist temples still standing in India and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002.

It houses the holy 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.

The complex attracts visitors from around the world during the peak tourist season from October to March.

After his meditations beneath the tree, Buddha is said to have devoted the rest of his life to teaching and he founded an order of monks before dying aged 80.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130707/blasts-at-one-buddhisms-holiest-sites-india-police