Explosion in Indian holy city of Varanasi
The blast hit those attending the sunset Ganga Aarti prayer ceremony
A one-year-old girl has been killed and at least 20 people have been injured by a bomb explosion in the northern Indian holy city of Varanasi, officials say.
The bomb was hidden in a rubbish bin at the Shitla ghat bathing point on the banks of the River Ganges, near the Vishwanath temple, police said.
The injured included Hindu worshippers attending an evening prayer ceremony.
Police said the blast appeared to be a terrorist attack and that officers had been placed on high alert nationwide.
It comes the day after the anniversary of the destruction by Hindu extremists in 1992 of a mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya, reports the BBC's Chris Morris in Delhi.
"The blast is an attempt to weaken our resolve by the evil forces of terrorism, in which the terrorists will not succeed”
Manmohan Singh Indian Prime Minister
The explosion occurred at about 1830 (1300 GMT), and struck those attending the Ganga aarti prayer ceremony at the Shitla ghat - one of the many stone staircases which lead down to the Ganges.
The United News of India news agency said the powerful explosion shook nearby buildings and knocked over iron railings around the Vishwanath temple. Stone walls up to 60m (200ft) away were damaged.
One witness told India TV that some people were hit by metal shrapnel.
The director-general of Uttar Pradesh state police, Karam Veer Singh, told the BBC that the injured included a foreign woman. Unconfirmed reports said she was an Italian national.
Earlier, senior police official Brij Lal said three victims, including one foreigner, were in hospital in a serious condition.
Some of the injured were hurt when railings collapsed as people tried to get away from the scene, officials said.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has appealed for calm.
Aftermath of the explosion in Varanasi (7 December 2010) The powerful explosion shook nearby buildings
"The blast is an attempt to weaken our resolve by the evil forces of terrorism, in which the terrorists will not succeed," he said.
One of Varanasi's MPs, Murli Manohar Joshi, meanwhile accused security forces of not being alert to the threat.
"This is a clear-cut indication that terrorist outfits in [Uttar Pradesh] are once again active," he told the Times Now TV channel. "It appears as if the police have also been lax."
Varanasi is the religious capital of Hinduism and is usually packed with Indian pilgrims and foreign tourists.
Hindus believe that if a person is cremated in Varanasi, or the ashes of the dead are scattered in the river and last rites offered, the deceased will achieve release from sufferings of the cycle of birth and death.
The Ganga aarti, which takes place daily at sunrise and sunset on the Shitla, Dashashwamedh and Prayag ghats, is attended by 2,000 to 3,000 people, many of whom are foreigners.
Also known as Benares, the city - about 670km (415 miles) south-east of the capital, Delhi - has a history of religious violence.
In 2006, 15 people were killed and dozens injured when bombs exploded at the Sankot Mochan temple and the main railway station.
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