India has not ruled out foreign involvement in Saturday’s German Bakery blast in Pune, which claimed nine lives, Home Secretary Gopal K. Pillai said on Monday.
The country will, however, go ahead with the foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan on February 25, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has decided.
Government leaders believe the blast was timed to derail the resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan. “We cannot allow the initiative to pass on to terror groups,” a senior government functionary said.
The decision came even as suspicion strengthened that the indigenous terror outfit, Indian Mujahideen (IM), was behind the Pune blast. Investigators have found similarities between the bomb planted at German Bakery and those that didn’t explode in Surat in July 2008, which are believed to have been planted by the IM.
The 24 bombs planted across Surat, two days after the serial blasts in Ahmedabad, failed to explode as the programmable electronic circuit used to set off the detonator did not have adequate power supply.
“The circuits were connected with a 9-volt battery, and it required more power,” said an investigator who studied the faulty bombs. “The circuit used to trigger the Pune blast was connected to two 9-volt batteries,” another investigator told HT.
Another similarity was that RDX was used as the core explosive substance in both Surat and Pune.
The IM is said to have taken directions from the Pakistan-based terror outfit Lashkar-e-Tayyeba for the Pune blast. It is well known that organisations like IM have handlers across the border, Pillai said. “We do not know whether the old modules are still existing or whether some new modules have come up. But we have alerted the states where they existed earlier,” he said.
The home secretary, who said it was too early to “rule out or rule in the possibility of the involvement of foreign hands”, suggested that it is unlikely that the David Headley connection was a coincidence as the German Bakery and places Headley recced were very close to each other. “Headley is after all a Lashkar operative,” a home ministry official said.
At the CCS meeting, Chidambaram briefed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, Defence Minister A.K. Antony and National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon.
The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad on Monday sent a team to Delhi to question Shahzad, an IM operative arrested in January from Uttar Pradesh. Shahzad, who had escaped the 2008 Batla House encounter, had told the police that the outfit’s sleeper cells in Pune were intact and active.