Against the backdrop of reports of detention of a number of people in Pune and Aurangabad, and also in Hampi in Karnataka, City Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh on Thursday said the involvement of locals in the February 13 blast at the German Bakery could not be ruled out.
According to reports, four Kashmiri men were taken into custody in Hampi by a team of the Pune police and a search was on for more suspects. The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad, probing the case, has also reportedly detained two men with links to the Indian Mujahideen in Pune.
Mr. Singh did not specify how many people had been taken into custody for questioning. “Over 30 people have been questioned so far.”
He said: “I have not received any official information from the ATS about the progress in the investigation.”
He reiterated his suspicion that a remote control was used to trigger the bomb that went off at the bakery at 6.52 p.m. “If indeed it was controlled by a remote, then the person who triggered it would not have had to go too far. I don’t have the expertise to comment, but from my experience in the job, I can say that the person who used the remote may have even been just across the road.”
On the footage got from the CCTV camera installed outside the O Hotel, located opposite the bakery, Mr. Singh said: “Investigators have certainly obtained some information like the faces of people, the clothes they were wearing and their way of walking. They [investigators] will make sketches of possible suspects when they have sufficient information.”
Though the CCTV camera at the bakery was functional at the time of the blast, its footage was restricted to the billing counter, and so it was not of help in the investigation, he hinted.
Mr. Singh admitted that the bakery was a “soft target,” having been a crowded place. Though security was beefed up at the Osho International Meditation Resort and the Jewish Chabad House, both barely a couple of hundred yards from the blast site — following information that U.S. terror suspect David Headley had surveyed those places — no security measures were taken at the bakery itself.
The eatery is said to have been targeted as it was frequented by foreign visitors coming to the meditation centre.
On a new terror group, the Lashkar-e-Taiba al-Almi, having claimed responsibility for the blast, Mr. Singh said: “It could be true or it could be a way of distracting investigators. One cannot be sure. But some people in Pakistan itself have apparently said they have never heard of such a group.”
Mr. Singh said the blast was “a wake-up call for all of us.” The Pune police would, together with the Municipal Corporation, crack down on illegal commercial establishments.
He asked hotels, restaurants and other commercial establishments to start taking their own private security measures as far as possible. At IT companies as well, access cards should be made mandatory, he said.
On Wednesday, Mr. Singh and other police officials addressed over 32,000 students from 57 schools and colleges in Pune, sensitising them to the need to be more watchful of suspicious activities in public places.
Speaking to students at the Maharashtra Institute of Technology (MIT), Mr. Singh said even ordinary people could be involved in terror attacks. He, however, did not name any of the people in detention.