Pune:In the first major terror strike since the 26/11 Mumbai carnage, at least nine people, including a foreigner, were killed and 32 injured when a powerful bomb ripped through the landmark German Bakery in Pune's upscale Koregaon Park on Saturday evening.
The blast occurred around 7.30 pm after a waiter at the bakery-cum-restaurant, a popular haunt of foreigners, noticed an unattended packet lying in the premises. The packet exploded when he attempted to open it, union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai told reporters in New Delhi.
The blast, initially suspected to be due to a gas cylinder explosion, engulfed the entire bakery in flames, trapping many of the victims during the peak weekend business hour.
THE DEVASTATION: The bomb blast completely destroyed the bakery and left over 40 injured.
A sombre Home Minister P Chidambaram, described the blast "s "a sad event, the first significant terror incident in 14 months", but cautioned against drawing any hasty conclusions as to its perpetrators."
"Let's wait for the forensic results before we draw any conclusions. Please don't speculate," Chidambaram told reporters in Chennai. He is likely to visit Pune on Sunday.
Pillai said: "According to information received from the state police and Intelligence Bureau, a bomb/explosive occurred at the German Bakery around 730 pm," Pillai said, adding that eight people, including a foreigner were killed and 32 were injured. One of the injured later died in hospital. A foreigner was also among the injured.
"The nationalities of the foreigners are being ascertained," he added.
Pillai said Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative David Coleman Headley had surveyed the area where the blast occurred but refused to immediately link the attack to any terror organisation. Hedley, who is a suspect in the 26/11 attacks, is currently in a US jail.
"The Osho Ashram, situated barely 200 yards from the bakery, was one of the sites surveyed by Lashkar operative David Headley," Pillai said, adding the central agencies had informed the Maharashtra Police on October 12, 2009 about Headley's visit.
The Chabad House Jewish religious centre is also located near the blast site. The Chabad House in Mumbai was also targeted during the 26/11 attacks.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said security in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra had been beefed up.
"Security has been tightened at all the locations which were surveyed by David Headley in Mumbai, Pune and other places," he added.
Asked if any specific inputs had been received about an impending terror strike, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal said: "We are checking if there were intelligent inputs. We get regular inputs but I do not know how specific they were."
As per preliminary investigations, at least 5-7 kg of explosives were triggered off by an improvised explosive device (IED), similar to the type used in the serial blasts in Mumbai suburban trains almost five years ago.
The injured were shifted to various public and private hospitals including Sassoon, Ruby, and Jehangir hospitals.
The investigators have not zeroed in on any group or individuals who could be behind the explosion, but the police have detained a cashier of the bakery for questioning and investigations, Pune Joint Police Commissioner R Sonawane said.
Pillai said a team of forensic experts from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was being airlifted to Pune to assist the state police in investigations. A team from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) is also expected to reach the city.
"Maharashtra Police, the state's Anti-Terrorism Squad and forensic experts from the state government were at the site to conduct investigations," the home secretary said.
Pillai said that the Maharashtra government has issued an advisory in the wake of the blasts and an advisory has also been issued by the home ministry warning the people not to open any unidentified objects and report all such cases to the police.
German Bakery is a landmark frequented by the elite and popular with foreigners and has often been compared with the Leopold Cafe? in Mumbai, one of the targets in the November 26-29, 2008 terror attacks.