INDIA: Muslim terror group claims credit for bomb blast in holy city that killed Hindu toddler

A bomb hidden in a metal canister exploded as thousands gathered for a Hindu ceremony, killing a toddler and triggering a stampede that left many others wounded in a holy Indian city.

NY POST–LUCKNOW, INDIA – Police said the blast in Varanasi appeared to be a terrorist attack. The Press Trust of India reported a Muslim terror group allegedly claimed responsibility for the blast in an e-mail to several media outlets. Authorities were working to verify the validity of the letter, allegedly sent by the terror group Indian Mujahedeen.

The bomb was stashed in a milk container on the Sheetla Ghat, one of many stone staircases leading to the Ganges river, the site of daily spiritual rituals, according to police official Brij Lal.

The explosion set off a stampede, and 19 people, including four foreigners, were wounded, Lal said. It was not immediately clear how many were hurt in the blast and how many in the subsequent chaos.

A 2-year-old who had been sitting on her mother’s lap when the bomb went off died in a hospital, Lal said. Her mother and two others, including one of the foreigners, were in serious condition.

The force of the explosion ripped away a metal railing and damaged stones up to 200 feet (60 meters) away, said a witness, Ramatama Srivastava.

The ceremony is a daily ritual in Varanasi, the holiest city in the Hindu religion, during which priests and others light oil lamps, ring bells and chant prayers to worship the Ganges.

In March 2006, twin bombings blamed on a Pakistan-based Islamic militant group tore through a train station and a temple in Varanasi, killing 20 people.