Police and eyewitnesses in Nepal say a bomb explosion in a church south of the capital has killed two people and wounded at least 15 others.

The blast ripped through the Church of the Assumption in the Dhobighat area in Lalitpur district, outside Kathmandu, early Saturday as worshippers gathered for a morning service.

Police say the explosion killed a 30-year-old woman and a 14-year-old girl, who was a high school student from neighboring India.

Witnesses say the bomb was hidden in a bag and exploded when someone moved it.

There was no direct claim of responsibility, but police said they found leaflets at the scene from a Hindu extremist group called the National Defense Army.  The pamphlets demanded that Nepal be declared a Hindu state.

The blast came just a few hours before Nepalese lawmakers were expected to elect a new prime minister following weeks of political disputes.

The country's Maoist former prime minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also known as Prachanda, resigned earlier this month in a dispute with the president over the firing of Nepal's army chief.

Sectarian violence is rare in Nepal, but the Nepal Defense Army claimed responsibility for the killing of a Christian missionary last year.

Nepal was officially a Hindu nation until 2006, when it became a secular state as the monarchy was disbanded at the end of a decade-long civil war.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.