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(photo credit: AP)
Authorities on Monday were investigating a bomb blast that ripped through a packed movie theater in northern India the day before, killing at least six people and wounding at least 30 others, authorities said.
The attack occurred on one of the holiest days of the Muslim calendar, Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, and came weeks before two major Hindu festivals, Dussehra and Diwali.
The blast in Ludhiana, an industrial town in Punjab state, was the second apparent terror attack in a week in northern India. Two people were killed days earlier in the bombing of a venerated Muslim shrine in the neighboring state of Rajasthan and a third died Sunday from his injuries.
Senior police official Ishwar Singh said investigators still did not know who was behind the Ludhiana bombing.
The Shringar cinema was packed when the blast occurred around 8:50 p.m. in one of its three theaters. Some 600 people were taking in a recently released Bollywood romance, "Janan Janam Ke Saath," or "Together Through Several Lifetimes," the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
India television broadcast scenes of shattered windows and glass doors in the cinema's lobby, and the CNN-IBN television news channel said some of the wounded had lost limbs in the blast.
Singh told reporters the explosion was caused by a single bomb that appeared to have been placed in the first three rows of seats. The blast scattered body parts across the theater floor and left a large crater slick with blood, according to newspaper reports.
Six men were killed - two who died in the blast and four who later succumbed to their injuries, he said. At least 30 others were wounded, he said. Other officials warned the death toll could rise.
Sunday's explosion drew immediate comparisons with the bombing earlier this week at the shrine of a 12th century Sufi saint, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, although officials offered no evidence of a link.
Authorities say Thursday's explosion, which took place in the town of Ajmer, was caused by a small bomb packed inside a tin lunch box that was detonated during evening Muslim prayers.
Police also discovered another bomb at the shrine that had apparently failed to detonate.
No one has claimed responsibility for either attack. But investigators say they have interrogated Indian and Bangladeshi pilgrims in connection with the bombing of the Muslim shrine, although they have so far made no arrests.
India has routinely blamed Pakistani and Bangladeshi-based Islamic militants for a series of attacks that have rocked the country over the last two years, saying they were meant to provoke violence between India's Hindu majority and Muslim minority. However, little concrete proof has been provided in the past.
Relations between Hindus, who make up more than 80 percent of India's population, and Muslims, who account for about 130 million of India's 1.1 billion people, have been relatively peaceful since the bloody partition of the subcontinent into India and Muslim Pakistan at independence from Britain in 1947. But there have been sporadic bouts of violence.