Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said in Pune on Sunday that the government was still seeking access to American terror suspect David Coleman Headley. The U.S. national’s name has surfaced in the light of his links with the 26/11 plot and his visit to Pune’s Osho Ashram frequented by foreigners. The Ashram and a Jewish Chabad House is close to the bakery targeted in Saturday’s blast.

“We want access to Headley for interrogation. However, there are legal difficulties in the matter. We have not given up our case that we need access to David Headley for interrogation. The government of India is pursuing the case of access to David Headley. Headley came to India only once after 26/11, in March 2009. He surveyed the Osho Ashram. He surveyed the Chabad House. It was widely reported, widely known. Chabad House was a hard target, so was the Osho Ashram. This particular area [Koregaon Park] has been on [the terrorist] radar for sometime,” Mr. Chidambaram told a press conference.

However, Mr. Chidambaram cautioned against jumping to conclusions. “David Headley had surveyed the Chabad House. At the moment, it is a stand-alone fact. Whether this particular incident is related to that, it is premature to answer that. We have to wait for the investigation to find out who perhaps is behind this incident.”

Soft target

He said the bakery was a “soft target” and the terrorist who planted the bomb could have posed as a customer, leaving the bag of explosives under a table. “It was a soft target where young people congregate,” he added.

A majority of those injured were young people and the bakery was a small place measuring about 350 sq.m. just enough to accommodate 66 people.

“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. Investigators are on their job. Until they are through, I will not speculate on anything,” Mr. Chidambaram said.

“This is not an overt terrorist attack by someone carrying a gun,” he added.

Mr. Chidambaram surveyed the scene of the blast along with Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, State Home Minister R.R. Patil and Pune Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh. The State government has announced a compensation of Rs. 5 lakh to the families of the deceased.

ATS team on the job

A large team of the Maharashtra ATS is investigating the case. The team has been divided into four sets to investigate every aspect of the case. Ravindra Kadam, Director General of Police (DGP), ATS, Pune, is heading the investigations under the supervision of Additional Director General and DGP Maharashtra. All the State and Central agencies are also assisting the ATS, Rashmi Shukla, special IGP law and order, said in Mumbai.

Denying media reports of a second unexploded bomb found in an auto, Ms. Shukla said there was only one bomb. “The police have searched the area extensively. There was no second bomb.”

She said a specific intelligence alert had come for Chabad House and all the units concerned had been sensitised about the alert. German Bakery was owned by Shankar Kharose and Ram Kharose.

A high-level meeting of police top brass and Mr. Chavan was held to review the preparedness of the security agencies in Mumbai and other important cities in the State. As part of the general alert in the State, security has been beefed up and police presence increased in all commercial, industrial and religious places, vital installations, including airports, malls, multiplexes and where foreign nationals frequent. The government has once again appealed to the people not to believe rumours and to report any suspicious object.

Cases registered

Meanwhile, the Bund Garden police station, under whose jurisdiction the German Bakery falls, has registered a First Information Report (FIR) against “unknown people” for killing and injuring people in a blast. The FIR has been registered by Pravin Rajkumar Pant (32), an employee at the bakery. The unknown people have been booked under sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons), 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons), 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees), 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.

They have also been booked under sections 3 (causing explosion likely to endanger life or property), 4 (attempt to cause explosion, or for making or keeping explosives with the intent to endanger life or property) and 5 (making or possessing explosives under suspicious circumstances) of the Indian Explosive Substances Act. They have also been booked under sections 16, 18 and 21 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Pune police commissioner Satyapal Singh refused to clarify what kind of an explosive was used. “We should have a report on the material used by Monday.” He also issued a stern direction to the media “not to interview those injured in the blast.”

“This goes against national interest and may create problems in the investigation,” he said. “We have issued directives to hospitals where the injured are being treated not to allow the media to interview the injured. Those found violating the directive will have to face the consequences.”

He added that it was not possible to provide security to every place in the city and that no specific input had been received about German Bakery. He said that the Pune police had done their best to create awareness amongst its citizens about terror. He appealed to the citizens to come forward with any information they had about probable suspects and inform the police at 020-26126296, 020-26122880 and 020-26125396.

Correction

The fifth paragraph of the report was “A majority of those injured were young people and the bakery was a small place measuring about 350 sq.m. just enough to accommodate 66 people.” It should have been “350 sq.ft”.

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