Eight people are reported to have been killed and 40 injured in a suspected bomb blast in the well-known German bakery of Pune, often frequented by foreigners visiting Pune.
The city also reportedly has a Chabad House, a Jewish cultural-cum-religious centre. Further details as to whether it was an act of terrorism, what kind of explosive was used etc are awaited.
Pune as a possible centre for jihadi activities came to notice in March 2002, when Abu Zubaidah, the then No.3 to Osama bin Laden, was arrested by the Pakistani authorities acting at the instance of the FBI, in the house of an activist of the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) at Faislabad in Pakistani Punjab and handed over to the FBI.
He is now in the Guantanamo Bay Detention Centre in Cuba. Sections of the Pakistani media had reported at that time that Abu Zubaidah, a Palestinian, had studied computer science in Pune before crossing over into Pakistan and joining Al Qaeda.
In September-October 2008, the Mumbai police had arrested four IT-savvy members of the Indian Mujahideen (IM), who had played a role in sending e-mail messages in the name of the IM before and after the Ahmedabad blasts of July, 2008, and before the New Delhi blasts of September 2008, by hacking into Wi-fi networks in Mumbai and Navin Mumbai. Three of them were from Pune. The four persons were:
- Mohammed Mansoor Asgar Peerbhoy aka Munawar aka Mannu. A 31-year-old resident of Pune, who was allegedly working for an American Internet company in its India office as a well-paid executive.
- Mubin Kadar Shaikh, a 24-year-old graduate of computer science from Pune.
- Asif Bashir Shaikh, a 22-year-old mechanical engineer from Pune. In addition to helping in sending the e-mail messages, he also reportedly played a role in planting 18 Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Surat, all of which failed to explode.
- Mohammed Ismail Chaudhary, a 28-year-old computer mechanic, who is also suspected to have helped in planting the IEDs in Surat.
Peerbhoy was reported to have joined the IM while he was studying Arabic in Pune’s Quran Foundation, which seems to have served as a favourite recruiting ground for jihadi terrorism.
Pune and its Chabad House again figured prominently in recent media reports of the visits to India by David Coleman Headley of the Chicago cell of the LeT presently facing trial in Chicago on charges of helping the LeT in carrying out the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai by collecting operational details about the targets to be attacked. Pune was one of the places reportedly visited by him for allegedly collecting target information for the LeT.
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, now Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai)