HYDERABAD, India - A bomb ripped through a historic mosque yesterday in southern India, and 13 people were killed - 11 in the blast and two in subsequent clashes between angry Muslim worshipers and security forces, police said.
Minutes after the blast at the 17th-century Mecca Masjid, worshipers who were angered by what they said was a lack of police protection began chanting "God is great!" Some hurled stones at police, who dispersed them with baton charges and tear gas.
While the situation at the mosque was quickly brought under control, Muslims later clashed with security forces in at least three parts of Hyderabad, said Mohammed Abdul Basit, police chief of Andhra Pradesh state, where Hyderabad is located.
Police fired live ammunition and tear gas to quell the riots, killing two people, he said.
The bombing, which also wounded 35, and related clashes raised fears of wider Hindu-Muslim violence in the city, long plagued by communal tensions - and occasional spasms of inter-religious bloodletting.
Many of the wounded were seriously hurt, and the city's police chief, Balwinder Singh, warned that the death toll could rise.
One bomb went off about 1:30 p.m., and police found and defused two other bombs soon after, said Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh state, speaking in New Delhi, where he was meeting with federal officials on unrelated business.
About 10,000 people usually attend Friday prayers at the mosque, in a Muslim neighborhood of Hyderabad, and the blast sparked a panic.
"As soon as prayers ended, we were about to get up, there was a huge deafening blast, sending bodies into the air," said Abdul Quader, 30, whose legs were slightly injured. "People stated running helter-skelter, there was such confusion."
The explosion immediately drew comparisons to a Sept. 8 bombing of a mosque during a Muslim festival in Malegaon, a city in western India, that killed 31.
There are an estimated 130 million Muslims in India, a country of 1.1 billion people.
India's worst religious violence in recent years was in 2002, in the western Gujarat state. More than 1,000 people, most of them Muslim, were killed by Hindu mobs in revenge attacks after a train fire killed 60 Hindus returning from a religious pilgrimage. Muslims were blamed for the train fire.