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February 12, 2010

Terror Bombing Hits Popular Bakery in Pune, India

by Steve Herman

At least nine people died and more than 40 were injured in an explosion at one of the most popular hangouts in the western Indian city of Pune. Authorities say they believe the blast at a bakery, popular with foreign visitors, is the first terror attack in the country in 14 months.

The German Bakery, on a busy road in the bustling city of Pune, was crowded on Saturday evening when it was hit by a large explosion and burst into flames. Several adjacent shops were destroyed.

Those who first came to help discovered a scene of carnage and a large crater in the restaurant's interior.

This man says when he and others arrived just after the blast they came upon bodies that had been ripped apart.

Initially police believed that an exploded liquid propane gas tank might have been the cause. But the country's Home Secretary, Gopal Krishna Pillai, speaking to reporters in New Delhi, says it was subsequently determined to be a bomb blast.

"It appears that an unattended package was noticed in the German Bakery by one of the waiters who apparently went and attempted to open the package when the blast took place," he said.

India media reports say ammonium nitrate fuel oil mixed with a military-type high explosive, known as RDX, was used.

Authorities say foreigners are among the dead and injured. The bakery is about 200 meters from the Osho Ashram, a meditation commune frequented by overseas visitors.

The Home Secretary, in his brief remark to reporters, noted that the ashram was surveyed by terror suspect David Coleman Headley, who is facing charges in the United States for allegedly helping to plan the November, 2008 terror attack on Mumbai.

The Osho commune was founded by the late guru, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. In the early 1980's the movement relocated to the U.S. state of Oregon. There the community was embroiled in controversy and its leaders accused of a number of crimes, including poisoning hundreds of people by contaminating salad bars with salmonella at local restaurants.

The destroyed bakery is also on the same street as the Pune branch of Chabad House, which caters to traveling Jews. The religious center was also one of the targets of the Mumbai attacks, in which more than 160 people died and are blamed on gunmen from the Lashkar-e-Taiba group in Pakistan.

India and Pakistan, later this month, are set to hold their first high-level talks since the siege of Mumbai, which froze the peace process between the two nuclear-armed neighbors and long-time rivals.