Hours before the multiple explosions, a crude bomb went off in a newly constructed toilet at the Patna railway station, two km from the BJP’s ‘Hunkar rally’ venue.
Five people died from blast injuries and 66 others were being treated for these injuries, according to Vimal Karak, Deputy Superintendent of Patna Medical College Hospital.
Five low intensity blasts occurred on the outer periphery of the Gandhi Maidan, Union Home Secretary Anil Goswami told PTI in Delhi. One bomb went off before the Eliphistine cinema hall on the western side of the rally venue, police said. Tens of thousands of people had gathered at the rally venue.
Immediately after the explosion at the railway station, bomb disposal swept the area and recovered two more crude bombs, Railway Superintendent of Police Upendra Kumar Sinha said.
One security personnel was injured while defusing a bomb recovered from the toilet, he said.
People were seen rushing the injured to the hospital as the explosions sparked panic.
At the rally, plumes of smoke billowed from a couple of sites even as BJP leaders, including Mr. Modi, addressed the crowd.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned the blasts and appealed for calm. He spoke to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and asked him to speedily probe the blasts and ensure that perpetrators are punished.
“The Prime Minister has condemned the blasts in Patna and called for urgent steps to identify and take action against those responsible,” a PMO statement sai
The Home Ministry sought a report from the Bihar government on the explosions and has sent teams of National Investigation Agency (NIA) and National Security Guard (NSG) to the state.
“I can’t say whether it was a terror attack or political conspiracy. Only after the investigation, we will be able to tell anything,” Union Minister of State for Home R P N Singh said.
Mr. Modi later said he was saddened at the blasts. “Blasts in Patna are deeply saddening and unfortunate. Condolences with families of deceased and prayers with injured. I appeal for peace and calm,” the Gujarat Chief Minister said in a tweet.
Hours after the blasts, one live bomb was found at Gandhi maidan and it was being defused, police said. The entire maidan was also being searched thoroughly.
Mr. Singh said besides the Prime Minister, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde had also spoken to the Chief Minister.
Four persons have been detained from different areas of Patna and are being questioned by police, according to Patna SSP Manu Maharaj.
Mr. Goswami said the Centre will give all assistance to the Bihar government. He said it was up to the state government to decide on what kind of arrangements were to be made for the rally.
Mr. Nitish held a meeting with Chief Secretary A.K. Sinha, Director General of Police Abhyanand and Principal Secretary Home Amir Subhani on the law and order situation in the wake of the serial blasts.
He also cancelled his scheduled tour to Munger where he was to address an international yoga conference.
Mr. Nitish’s carcade was ready at his 1, Anne Marg residence to leave for the airport to fly to Munger when the visit was cancelled, sources in the chief minister’s office said.
He was scheduled to go to Munger and from there to Rajgir to attend a two-day JD(U) convention in Nalanda district.
“The chief minister’s programme at Munger to attend an international yoga conference has been cancelled in view of the blasts in Patna,” Munger DM N K Singh told PTI.
Krishna, an eyewitness, said the gathering was first told that the tyre of a vehicle had exploded after the first explosions went off near the rally venue.
“But it didn’t seem so. I went there to check. I knew they were bomb blasts. The sound of the blasts was too loud,” he said.
PM condemns blasts, appeals for peace
Condemning the blasts in Patna just ahead of Narendra Modi’s rally, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appealed for peace and asked Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to urgently identify and take action against the perpetrators.
The Prime Minister spoke to Mr. Kumar soon after the blasts to enquire about the situation and impress upon the need for immediate and firm action.
He assured the Bihar Chief Minister of all help from the Centre in the investigation.
“The Prime Minister has condemned the blasts in Patna and called for urgent steps to identify and take action against those responsible,” a PMO statement said.
“He appealed to the people to maintain peace and calm,” it added.
Dr. Singh, during his telephonic call to Kumar, called for “immediate and firm action”.