NEW DELHI // Two bombs exploded in a crowded market place in the southern city of Hyderabad on Thursday, killing at least 20 and injuring more than 70 people.
Manmohan Singh, the prime minister, condemned the attack as a "dastardly act" but appealed for calm.
The bombs, placed in metal tiffin containers attached to bicycles, were about 150 metres apart and exploded within two minutes of each other outside a movie theatre and a bus station in Hyderabad's Dilsukh Nagar district, said police.
The death toll is expected to rise, according to Sushilkumar Shinde, India's home minister.
Mr Shinde said Indian intelligence agencies had prior information about a possible attack, but "we did not have specific information about a location and manner of strike", he told reporters in New Delhi yesterday evening.
India has been on a state of alert since Mohammed Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri, was hanged in New Delhi on February 9. Guru was convicted of involvement in a 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament that killed 14 people, including five gunmen. Many, especially in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, where Guru was born, believed he did not receive a fair trial.
Mr Shinde cautioned against reaching conclusions about who may be responsible for the attacks.
"We cannot say who is to blame about the blasts," he said.
Hyderabad deputy inspector of police Shiv Kumar said "this is a terror attack for sure", although he added that there had been no claim of responsibility.
Foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai, the top civil servant in India's external affairs ministry, said the culprits were not known but did not rule out foreign involvement.
"I am not sure there is any evidence it could be homegrown terrorism. We have had a number of attacks which have been traced to inspiration or leadership outside the country," he said in Washington, DC.
Television images showed the injured being taken to a nearby hospital, while police tried to cordon off the blast sites, which were attracting curious onlookers.
The Indian prime minister announced compensation of 200,000 rupees (Dh13,553) for the next of kin of those who died in the bomb blasts and 50,000 rupees to the injured.
"The guilty will not go unpunished," Mr Singh said.
Hyderabad has been the site of frequent terrorist attacks in recent years, including in August 2007, when a two explosions outside an amusement park and a popular eatery killed 42 people and injured dozens. A day after the blasts, police found and defused 19 bombs that were planted across the city, including at bus stops, pedestrian crossings and a public water fountain.
* With additional reporting by Associated Press and Agence France-Presse