New Delhi/Pune: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday sought a quick probe of the bomb blast in a Pune restaurant that left at least nine people dead, as the government came under fire from opposition parties that said the attack resulted from an intelligence failure.
Singh directed the Union and Maharashtra governments to coordinate efforts and take effective action so that “the culprits responsible for this heinous act are identified and brought to justice at the earliest”, a spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said.
The bomb, left in a backpack under a table at the popular German Bakery in Pune’s Koregaon Park area on Saturday night, also wounded 57 people. The first big attack in the country since the 2008 Mumbai massacre, the blast appeared to target both Indian and foreign tourists. Koregaon Park is the location of the Jewish Chabad House and the Osho Ashram.
The explosion came a day after India and Pakistan agreed to foreign secretary-level talks in New Delhi on 25 February. The talks were suspended after Pakistani militants killed at least 166 people during a three-day rampage in Mumbai that started on 26 November 2008.
Picking up the pieces: Firefighters remove debris from the site of the bomb blast in Pune, which left at least nine dead and 57 wounded. Reuters
Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the Pune blast and sought a “meaningful dialogue” with India. “We condemn terrorism in all its manifestations,” Gilani said in Rawalpindi.
Both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left parties raised questions about the efficacy of the government’s intelligence-gathering machinery.
The government “must seriously introspect whether our intelligence collection and security responses are still inadequate”, the BJP said.
The main opposition also asked the government not to go ahead with “misconceived and adventurist steps” such as resuming a dialogue with Pakistan. “Terror and talks cannot co-exist,” said the leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley.
Home minister P. Chidambaram told reporters in Pune that the blast wasn’t the result of an intelligence failure.
German Bakery was a soft target in an area that had been on the radar of intelligence officials, Chidambaram said.
“This particular area has been on the radar for quite some time. But this was not an overt attack by a gunman, but an insidious attack with a bomb planted in a soft target.”
He declined to speculate on the impact of the Pune blast on India- Pakistan talks.
(‘Reuters’ contributed to this story.)