Chidambaram hints at Headley link to Pune bombing | india | Hindustan Times
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Chidambaram hints at Headley link to Pune bombing

india Updated: Feb 14, 2010 20:15 IST

Home Minister P Chidambaram on Sunday linked a bombing at a popular bakery in Pune that killed nine people to jailed Pakistan-born American Islamist David Headley and said the terrorists chose to attack a place frequented mainly by foreigners and young Indians.

As three dozen of the 57 injured remained in hospitals in Pune, with one in critical condition and unlikely to survive, the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of the Maharashtra Police began probing the worst terror attack in India since November 2008 when Pakistani terrorists killed 166 people in Mumbai.

The ATS would be assisted by the Crime Branch in Pune. Explosive experts from the Indian Army visited the spot to assist the investigators.

Chidambaram did not blame any group for the bombing but hinted that Islamists could be involved by pointing out that Headley had surveyed the nearby Osho Ashram and the Jewish Chabad House in 2007-8 when he quietly visited India to pluck out possible spots for attacks for his handlers in the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba group.

Headley, a Lashkar activist, was arrested in the US last year. He is now in a Chicago prison.

"This particular area has been on (the terrorist) radar for sometime. The Chabad House was surveyed by Headley. Police were sensitised that the Chabad House was a target so was the Osho Ashram in that area. These were the hard targets," the minister said.

"Headley surveyed Osho Ashram. He surveyed the Chabad House. It was widely reported, widely known. Chabad House was a hard target, so was the Osho Ashram.

"All the information available to us points to a plot to explode a device in a place that is frequented by foreigners as well as Indians... We are not ruling out anything, we are not ruling in anything."

He said the terrorist who brought the bomb to the bakery -- which he described as a "soft target" -- might have posed as a customer and quietly left the backpack containing the explosive under a table. "It was a soft target where young people congregate."

The bomb exploded when a waiter at the bakery tried to open the backpack.

The German Bakery is hugely popular with foreigners but attracts a larger number of Indians on weekends.

Six of the dead have been identified as Indians. Of the three who remain unidentified, the sole woman could be a foreigner, Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Rashmi Shukla told reporters. She said 20 of the injured had been discharged while the others remained in seven hospitals.

Doctors said one man who had suffered multiple fractures and 78 per cent burns was in critical condition and unlikely to survive.

Among the injured were foreigners including four Iranians, two Nepalese and one German, one Sudanese and one Taiwanese. Pune, a city popular with foreigners, was tense but calm on Sunday as Chidambaram flew in early in the day to oversee the investigation.

Chidambaram said the blast case would be cracked soon. "Investigators are on their job. Until they are through, I will not speculate on anything."

He said it was too early to speculate what the motive was behind the attack.

Earlier, Chidambaram surveyed the scene of the blast accompanied by Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, Home Minister RR Patil and Pune Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh.

The authorities have announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the families of those killed in the attack.

Meanwhile, security has been tightened in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra. "Security has been tightened at all important installations, including the airport, railway stations and other places in Mumbai," said Chief Minister Ashok Chavan.