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Saturday, February 13, 2010

“Headley surveyed ashram close to Pune blast site”

NEW DELHI: The Centre on Saturday night said the scene of Pune’s bomb blast was very close to Osho Ashram which had been surveyed by Lashkar-e-Taiba operative David Coleman Headley; the Maharashtra government had been alerted about this last October.

Making a statement to the media here, Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai said it was worth noting that the German Bakery, the site of the blast, was about 200 yards away from the ashram, which was one of the sites surveyed by Headley. The Lashkar operative visited Mumbai and other parts of the country ahead of the November 26, 2008 terror attack. Headley, an American citizen of Pakistan origin, is now in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Chicago and has been charged for planning terror attacks in Mumbai.

Mr. Pillai said the Multi-Agency Centre (MAC) had alerted the Maharashtra police about the survey done by Headley. The Home Ministry has issued an advisory to all State governments to be on “high alert” and warned citizens to refrain from opening unattended packages and report all such instances to the nearest police station or control room.

He said Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram was closely monitoring the situation from Tamil Nadu and the position was being reviewed continuously.

Police and rescue workers inspect the blast site.

Giving details about the Pune blast, Mr. Pillai said that it “appears that an unattended package was noted by one of the waiters, and the blast occurred when he apparently attempted to open it.” He said that according to latest reports received from the State police and the Intelligence Bureau, eight people were killed in the blast and 32 injured.

The Home Secretary said a forensic team of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was being airlifted from the capital to Pune. The Anti-Terrorism Squad and forensic teams of the State police had reached the site and were conducting investigations.

Replying to queries, Mr. Pillai said the investigation had just begun and added that he would comment only after completion of the forensic probe.

He refused to get drawn to another question if the blast was aimed at derailing India-Pakistan talks slated for February 25.

Sources in the security establishment said the modus operandi and the intensity of the blast indicated that the site was chosen by suspected terrorists as it was frequented mostly by foreigners and any terror incident in Pune, the fast emerging IT hub and home to a number of prestigious educational institutions, would cause substantial loss of lives and create panic among citizens. It was also the first major terror attack since the 26/11 Mumbai terror strikes.

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