Pune: Pune this evening saw four low-intensity blasts in a span of nearly 40 minutes on its busy Junglee Maharaj Road in the heart of the city. Two other bombs have been defused by the Anti-Terror Squad. All the bombs were placed within a kilometre. At least one person has been injured. He has been taken into custody.
Home Secretary RK Singh told NDTV that the injured person is being treated as suspect and questioned by the police. Mr Singh also said that a terror angle cannot be ruled out as it appears to be a planned attack.
Sushil Kumar Shinde, who took over today as India's Home Minister, was scheduled to be in the city tonight to preside over a prize-giving ceremony. He cancelled his plans at the last minute. "The blasts were of low-intensity. I was supposed to be at the Tilak Theatre, very near to where one of the blasts took place. At this moment, I cannot say anything more. It is now a matter of inquiry, " he told reporters in Delhi.
The explosions took place between 7.37 and 8.15 pm during rush hour in the heart of the city on Junglee Maharaj Road, crowded with restaurants, shops and the large Sambhaji Park, popular for family outings in the evening. The blasts took place outside the Balgandharva auditorium used to stage plays, at a statue near that theatre, opposite a McDonalds outlet and near a bank. One of the bombs, placed on a cycle, was hooked up to sophisticated circuitry, say sources.
In Mumbai, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan called a meeting with senior officials to step up security for the financial capital. "Two teams from the NIA will reach Pune. Bomb disposal experts also. All experts to come to Pune and find out what device it was and what was the motive. When we know anything more concrete, we will share... Request people not to panic," he said.
After the blasts all cities across India are on high alert. A bomb disposal squad swept Jantar Mantar in New Delhi where Anna Hazare and his activists are on a hunger strike, supported by a large crowd. (Read: High alert in Delhi)
Mr Shinde cancelled his trip to Pune at the last minute to meet with officials in his new assignment at the home ministry, said Jitender Singh, the junior Home Minister. "Please stay calm...the government of India and Maharashtra will work towards cracking this," Mr Singh said on NDTV.
The Anti-Terror Squad is examining CCTV footage from the branch of McDonald's outside which one of the explosion took place. The police says it has fanned out across the city; it has urged residents to report any suspicious object and not to touch unclaimed objects.
The Army has also sent a bomb disposal squad to the blast site at the request of the local administration. Pune is the Southern Command headquarters of the Indian Army.
In February 2010, 17 people were killed in a bomb blast at the popular German Bakery near Pune's famous Osho ashram. After being arrested in the US, Lashkar-e-Taiba operative David Coleman Headley confessed to having filmed the bakery to help in the planning and execution of the terror attack.