Pune terror blast shatters calm after Mumbai 26/11: The Indian Express

Last Updated: Monday, February 15, 2010 - 09:34

Pune: Breaking the over 400-day lull after the attacks in Mumbai, suspected terrorists set off a bomb that ripped through the heart of Pune’s international face for almost two decades, German Bakery in upmarket Koregaon Park, killing at least nine people and leaving over 50 injured, a dozen of whom are critical, police said.

Of those killed, five are reported to be women and at least one is a foreigner. Police said that given the condition of the bodies, the identification exercise is still going on. The lone dead person identified is Shankar Pansare from Belha taluka of Pune district.

While a Jewish prayer centre, the Chabad House, is right across the road from the bakery, the Osho Ashram is barely 100 m away. Incidentally, both were venues recorded and monitored by Lashkar suspect David Coleman Headley, currently in FBI custody in the US, charged with helping plot the 26/11 attacks. Hotel Surya Villa, where he checked in during his visits, is also close to the bakery.

Police sources said that a bakery employee had picked up an “abandoned” bag and tried to open it when the explosion took place. However, there were also reports late tonight that the employee is said to have told the police that a “woman got off an autorickshaw” and handed him the bag.

So deafening was the blast — suspected to be an improvised explosive device — that it could be heard 2 km away when it occurred at around 7 pm. Some of the bodies were blown to pieces, blood marked the site.

For almost an hour, the city police said it was set off by “multiple gas cylinders,” before Pune Joint Commissioner of Police Rajendra Sonawane confirmed it was a bomb blast — making this the first terror strike in Pune.

A team of the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS), Intelligence and ballistic experts reached the spot to investigate the nature of the explosive used in the high-intensity blast.

Police are questioning the bakery’s cashier. Prakash Barge, an eyewitness, told The Sunday Express that he was standing at the nearby Ganesh Mandal when the explosion took place. “I heard a big noise and saw flames coming out of the bakery. Along with others from the mandal, I rushed to the spot where I saw bodies lying in pools of blood,” he said. Barge said many mandal activists picked up the injured and shifted them to nearby private hospitals in autorickshaws.

Owner of a footwear shop near German Bakery Santosh Bhosale said, “When I reached the spot, I saw that the vehicles parked nearby were shattered.”

Rabbi Bztalel Kupchek was in Chabad House doing his prayers with 10 others when an ear-splitting blast broke their reverie. “Saturday is a holiday for us, so we were in the House doing our evening prayers when we heard this loud noise. We rushed out immediately but were stopped from going outside by police personnel deployed at our place 24X7,” said the 52-year-old rabbi. The Chabad House has been under heavy police security for the past few months after it figured as one of the sites on Headley’s Lashkar hitlist.

Amrit Sadhna, spokesperson of the Osho Commune, said there were no ashram members at the bakery when the blast happened. “All the roads were blocked but I managed to come in (to the ashram), now no one can enter Koregaon Park,” she said.

First Published: Monday, February 15, 2010 - 09:34

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