Near-simultaneous blasts outside courts in three north Indian cities left at least six people dead yesterday in what a senior government official said were terrorist strikes.
Police said the blasts were reported from Lucknow, Varanasi and Faizabad, all in the populous state of Uttar Pradesh. At least two people were killed in Varanasi and four in Faizabad.
The four confirmed dead in Faizabad were all lawyers, a police spokesman said by telephone from the state capital Lucknow, where an explosion also took place.
The spokesman said there were two blasts at Faizabad where about 20 people were also injured in a "shed" used by advocates.
The police spokesman said 12 people were injured in Varansi but he had no immediate figure for the death toll.
"I believe it is the handiwork of groups who are trying to spread terror in our country," junior Home Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal told reporters.
"The fact that three blasts took place at the same time .. it is clear that it is a conspiracy," Jaiswal said.
NDTV news channel showed footage of at least two lifeless bodies being dragged off in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi and said they were dead. Several wounded people were also shown.
One wounded man drove away on a motorbike while a passerby held a cloth or handkerchief to his blood-soaked head.
Varanasi is a popular Hindu pilgrimage center. At least 15 people were killed and 60 wounded there in three explosions last year.
Faizabad is a twin city of Ayodhya, a Hindu holy center where hardline Hindu groups razed an ancient mosque in 1992, saying it was built on the birthplace of Hindu god-king Ram.
Ayodhya has since been a flashpoint for Hindu-Muslim tensions across the country and the disputed site was also targeted by suspected Muslim militants in 2005.
India has been hit by blasts frequently in recent years and most of them have been blamed on Pakistan-based Islamist militant groups fighting against Indian rule in Kashmir.
Last month, a small bomb exploded just after evening prayers at Ajmer, an important and crowded Muslim shrine in northwestern India, killing at least two.
Indian officials say that militant groups target religious centers in an attempt to divide majority Hindus and minority Muslims and spark clashes.