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India rail, temple blasts kill 14

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NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- Three explosions in the holy Indian city of Varanasi have killed 14 people and wounded dozens more, Indian authorities have told CNN.

The first blast was in the Hindu Sankat Mochan temple, Varanasi's police chief Navneet Sikera said.

Crowds at the temple are at their peak on Tuesdays with devout Hindus making an offering to the monkey-god Hanuman.

The idols at the temple were not damaged, Sikera said.

The other two blasts occurred at a railway station where an express train was boarding, police said.

Officials said they did not know how many casualties those blasts caused.

The Associated Press quoted policeman Mohammed Hashmi as saying the railway station blast went off inside a train.

Witness Sunil Yadav told AP there also was a blast near the ticket counter in the waiting room of the crowded station.

Another bomb, found in a crowded area of the city called Gudolia, was defused, Sikera said.

There was no claim of responsibility for any of the blasts.

The blasts were aimed at "soft" targets "to create tension and disrupt communal harmony," Indian Home Secretary V.K. Dugal said.

The three blasts occurred just a few minutes apart, between 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. (noon and 12:30 p.m. GMT).

Several parts of the Indian city in Uttar Pradesh state were cordoned off, police said, and temples in the area -- and as far away as New Delhi -- were on high alert.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemning the explosions and a top state official promising stern action against those responsible, AP reported.

Singh also appealed for calm, his spokesman, Sanjaya Baru, said.

Varanasi is Hinduism's holiest city and is ordinarily filled with pilgrims visiting temples and bathing in the holy waters of the Ganges River, which runs through town.

It is also a popular spot with foreign tourists, especially backpackers, according to AP.

Varanasi is about 725 kilometers (450 miles) southeast of the capital.

CNN Correspondent Satinder Bindra contributed to this report

Copyright 2006 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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