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2-year-old killed, 32 injured in blast at Indian temple

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Deadly blast outside Indian temple
  • NEW: A 2-year-old girl is dead
  • NEW: Tourists were among those injured
  • NEW: Authorities are blaming a militant group
  • India

New Delhi, India (CNN) -- A 2-year-old girl was killed and at least 32 people were injured when a temple in Varanasi, India, was hit in a terror attack on Tuesday, officials said.

The officials said the incident occurred during Hindu prayers outside the temple in the northeastern Indian holy city, and it came a day after the anniversary of a seminal event in India -- the 1992 razing of a Muslim mosque in Ayodhya.

Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai told CNN-IBN that the blast was a terror strike carried out by Indian Mujahedeen, a Muslim militant group. He said an alert was issued in New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore in the wake of the blast.

Inspector General of Varanasi Rajendra Pal Singh confirmed the death and the injuries, saying that three of those hurt were foreigners -- two Italians and one Japanese. Of the 32, one Indian is in critical condition.

CNN-IBN quoted officials saying that people "were injured in the blast but the numbers increased because a railing broke." That led "to a small stampede."

"We did not have specific information that this would happen in Varanasi, but December 6 is the anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition, so we were on high alert in sensitive areas, and Varanasi is definitely a sensitive area," U.K. Bansal, secretary of internal security of the Home Affairs Ministry, told CNN.

"It is safe to presume that it is some anti-social element that has done this."

Many foreigners visit Varanasi, and Bansal said the community is a "historically important" Hindu town.

"If that can be linked to the intentions of the miscreants, that alone will throw some light on the choice of attacks."

An improvised explosive device was found in a garbage can near the blast site.

"We take this explosion as a challenge. We are investigating into the nature of the blast and will give details after the investigations by the teams present on the spot," said Uttar Pradesh police official Brij Lal.

Robert Kim, an American tourist visiting India from Hawaii, was taking photographs of the city from a boat on the Ganges River when the explosion occurred.

"We didn't realize what it was at first, and our guide told us to hit the decks, so we all laid down in the boat," Kim said.

The guide immediately backed the boat away from shore amid fears of the possibility of a second blast.

"We were quite scared," Kim said.

The destruction of the Babri mosque in 1992 sparked religious riots across India in which more than 2,000 people died.

Bansal said police are not ruling out any possibilities.

"Once the investigations are done, a confirmation may be given. There is no reason to panic. It will be handled in a professional manner," he said.

CNN's Sumnima Udas contributed to this report