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Thursday, 8 June, 2000, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
Bombs rock Indian churches

Separate bomb explosions have damaged three churches in two southern Indian states.

Four people have been injured in the blasts which took place in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

Two people were hurt when two bombs went off near a church in Gulbarga, Karnataka.

Two other churches were partially damaged in explosions in two towns on the Andhra Pradesh coast, injuring two people.

Bomb discovered

Police discovered one of two explosives which detonated near St Anne's Church in Gulbarga but were unable to prevent it from going off.

Christian groups have expressed their outrage over the attack which, they said, were part of a sustained campaign to intimidate them.

An investigation has been ordered and extra security is in place to protect churches and Christian establishments in Karnataka.

Earlier, a bomb exploded in the American Baptist Church at Ongole in Andhra Pradesh, 350km south of the state capital, Hyderabad

Chandrababu Naidu
Chief Minister Naidu has ordered a probe
The bomb, which was kept under the last row of benches in the church, shattered the windowpanes and damaged the benches.

Two church workers, Sugunamma and Solomon, were injured.

They were taken to the district hospital for treatment.

A second bomb went off in Tadepalligudem, 450km north-east of Hyderabad.

No one was reported to have been hurt.

The bomb, which was placed at the pulpit, damaged the building from inside and shattered the window panes.

Minority fears

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu visited both places and condemned the attacks.

He directed police to provide extra protection to prevent any more attacks and also to conduct a probe into the incident.

These latest explosions have caused fears among the minority Christian community about their safety.

Last month, a blast in a crowded Christian religious congregation in Machlipatnam left 30 people injured.

A week later, police recovered two bombs from two churches at Medak and Viqarabad town near Hyderabad.

Christian organisations said they suspected that the attacks might have been carried out by Hindu fundamentalist groups.

Police, however, said that a feud between two groups of Christians in a village was responsible for the Machlipatnam blast.

That was denied by the chief of Andhra Pradesh's Christian body.

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