Four 'low-intensity' blasts shake western Indian city
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
MUMBAI, Aug 2: Four low-intensity blasts hit the western Indian city of Pune on Wednesday, injuring one person, on the same day as a scheduled visit -- cancelled at the last minute -- by the country´s new home minister.
Pune Police Commissioner Gopal Rao Pol told AFP that a fifth explosive device had been defused and added that the injured person was being treated as a possible suspect.
Pune was the site of a major bombing in 2010 that killed 17 people and injured dozens more, including a number of foreigners, in a restaurant popular with tourists.
Wednesday´s serial blasts, which went off in succession over a 45-minute period beginning shortly after 7:30 pm (1400 GMT), all targeted a bustling restaurant and shopping area in central Pune in the state of Maharashtra.
Indian Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, who only officially took up his duties on Wednesday, told reporters in New Delhi that he had originally been scheduled to attend an event at a theatre in Pune the same evening.
The visit was cancelled due to a scheduling conflict.
Shinde told reporters in New Delhi that a team from the federal National Investigation Agency -- created after the 2008 Mumbai attacks to investigate terror-related crimes -- had flown to Pune from the capital.
Police commissioner Pol sought to play down the severity of the incident, suggesting the size of the blasts did not indicate a full-scale terror attack.
"These were minor explosions," he told television reporters on the scene.
"There is no panic in Pune and the police are doing their job. People can carry on their routine work. They don´t need to stay at home," he said.
However, Indian Home Secretary R.K. Singh said a terror angle could not be ruled out given the "planned" nature of the blasts.
One of the devices went off in a garbage bin outside a McDonald´s fast-food outlet while two others were attached to bicycles, police said.
According to Pol, initial reports suggested the fourth bomb had gone off in a bag carried by the injured man.
"Our police team has gone to interrogate him," he said.
Shahnawaz Hussain, a spokesman for India´s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, suggested the timing of the blasts -- given the expected visit of the home minister -- had been intended as an "alarm call" for the government.
The February 2010 bombing in Pune had targeted the German Bakery restaurant, a regular hangout for foreign tourists in the city.
It killed 17 people in what was the first major attack on Indian soil since the 2008 Mumbai attacks carried out by Pakistan-based militants that claimed 166 lives.
Although no arrests were made for the restaurant blast, the government said evidence pointed to the involvement of the Indian Mujahideen, a home-grown Islamist group with links to militants in Pakistan.