M A I N   N E W S

Terror strikes Pune; 9 dead
First major attack post-26/11
3 foreigners dead
Over 32 injured
Tribune News Service & Agencies

Pune/Mumbai, February 13
A bomb ripped apart a bakery popular with foreign tourists in Pune on Saturday, killing at least nine persons, including three foreigners, and injuring more than 45 in the first major attack since the Mumbai massacre of 2008.

“There was a bomb blast at around 7.15 pm in the German Bakery near the Osho Ashram at the posh Koregaon Park in Pune this afternoon. There have been nine deaths and over 45 people have been injured,” Chief Minister Ashok Chavan told reporters in Mumbai. “It’s most probably a terror attack. We are sending a forensic team of CBI and personnel of National Investigative Agency (NIA)”, Union Home Secretary Gopal Krishna Pillai said in New Delhi. Initial reports by the police said the blast — suspected to have been triggered by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) — took place after someone allegedly opened an unidentified bag at the bakery.

Police later recovered several unidentified bags from different parts of Pune. Two bags were found abandoned in autorickshaws near the blast site.

At least three foreigners have lost their lives in the blast, police said. While one of the victims have been identified as a Sudan national, the nationalities of others are still being determined. “It is a suspected bomb blast. We have not arrived at any conclusion at this stage but prima facie it appears that it is a bomb blast”, Pune’s Joint Commissioner of Police Rajendra Sonwane said.

The Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) has been rushed to the spot to ascertain the nature of the blast. The scene of the blast, that destroyed the bakery, was littered with thick patches of blood and severed limbs. “I was travelling by an autorickshaw. I heard a loud explosion and the ground shook”, said Santosh, one of the injured in the blast.

An eyewitness said there was a loud bang which shook the entire area and “we saw a fire”. Though initially the blast was attributed to a gas cylinder explosion, the impact, which brought down most part of a wall of the bakery, is suspected to have been the result of an IED, police officials said in Pune.


Headley connection

American terror suspect David Headley had visited the Osho Ashram located near the German Bakery in Koregaon Park twice in 2008-09. The area also houses a Jewish prayer house. According to the NIA investigations, Headley had moved to Pune from Goa to recee the area around Koregaon Park. Though initially it was believed that he wanted to target the foreigners coming to the Osho Ashram, later it was found that he had scouted the area for targeting the Jewish prayer centre in the area. Headley had later left to Mumbai where he went to the Cuffe Prade area and apparently firmed up some loose ends in targeting the Israel Airways office before flying to Pakistan from the Chatrapati Shivaji airport. Headley’s last visit to India before being arrested by the FBI was in March last year, to finalise synchronised terror strikes on Jewish houses.



Alert sounded

The Union Home Ministry has issued an alert across the country asking people not to open any unattended object and to inform the police if they find any suspicious object.Home Secretary GK Pillai said the Union Home Ministry had issued an advisory to the Maharashtra government informing it that the Osho Ashram was one of the sites surveyed by Headley. A high alert has also been sounded in the state following the blast in Pune, the police said. The Maharashtra police has been asked to remain on "high alert", a senior police official said. Meanwhile, Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has announced Rs 1 lakh ex gratia for the kin of each of those killed in the blast. Those injured would get Rs 50,000 each.



Political blame game

The Shiv Sena has blamed Chief Minister Ashok Chavan for the blast. "Chief Minister Ashok Chavan is responsible as he deployed the entire police force at cinema theatres screening "My Name is Khan", said Uddhav Thackeray. He said the Sena was withdrawing the agitation against the film due to the "national crisis". Meanwhile, BJP spokesman Prakash Jawadekar has demanded that the government reconsider the proposed dialogue with Pakistan in the wake of the blast here. "Terror and talks cannot go together" he told reporters at the blast site. Jawadekar said the blast in the city was "a terrorist attack" and asked, "what is the logic in holding talks?" The Congress, however, condemned the statement of the BJP saying it was unfortunate that political parties were trying to take mileage from an unfortunate incident.



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