Terror struck this holy town when a low intensity blast ripped through a crowded bathing ghat on the banks of the Ganges river during evening prayers killing a two-year-old girl and injuring around 25 persons including a couple of foreigners.
Terror outfit Indian Mujahideen(IM) claimed responsibility for the blast in e-mails sent to media houses and said it “attributed” the attack to the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992.
Home Secretary G K Pillai said the Government believes that the blast,which also led to a stampede,was a terror strike. Some people were injured in the stampede,police said.
The girl identified as Sarita Sharma,who was with her mother for the prayers,died at Marwari hospital after the blast,according to IG(Varanasi) R P Singh. She was around two years,he said. It was not immediately known whether she suffered injuries in the explosion or in the stampede.
An Italian and a French national were among the injured.
The blast occurred at around 6:20 pm when thousands of devotees and some foreign tourists had assembled at the Dashashwamedh ghat for having darshan of the Ganga Arti ritual,police sources said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appealed for calm. Several cities including the national capital were put on high alert.
Additional Director General Law and Order Brijlal told reporters in Lucknow that the blast took place due to “some explosive material” kept on the stairs of the ghat.
Pillai said roughly between “20 to 25 persons” are currently injured. An Italian and a French national were among the foreingers injured. But police said 30 to 35 persons may have been injured. The injured have been rushed to district hospitals.
The blast occured at a spot some two km away from Sankatmochan Temple which was targeted by terrorists in 2006. “According to the information that we have,it was a low intensity blast which occured around 6.20 PM,” Pillai said in New Delhi. But Secretary(Internal Security) U K Bansal said the explosion was a “medium intensity” blast.
Some people suffered injuries due to the blast while some were hurt during the stampede which occurred due to the collapse of the railing. Some of the injured persons were reported to have been hurt by metal pellets.
Official sources in New Delhi said that an Improvised Explosive Device(IED) was recovered from a metal dustbin at the site of the blast.
Bomb disposal squads were also rushed to the spot.
Eyewitnesses said a loud noise which also shook some nearby buildings was heard when the explosion occurred.