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The cops did everything they could: Chidambaram

Last updated on: February 14, 2010 10:45 IST

Dismissing "intelligence failure" in the Pune blast, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on Sunday said the terrorists have hit a "soft target" like the German bakery, which is frequented by foreigners and Indians alike.

He maintained that the "hard targets" like the Osho Ashram and the Jewish Chabad House located near the bakery had been surveyed by US Lashker-e-Tayiba suspect David Headley during his visit to India and the area was "in the radar" of terrorists for some time.

"But apart from hard targets, there are soft targets... All these (the German bakery where the blast took place on Saturday and an Italian restaurant nearby) are soft targets where foreigners and Indians congregate especially during the peak hours," he told media persons in Pune after visiting local hospitals to meet the injured in the terror attack.

The Home Minister said the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad has taken over the case and constituted teams to investigate the blast.

He announced a compensation of Rs five lakh to the families of those killed in the attack.

Terror struck Pune on Saturday night as a powerful bomb ripped apart a popular bakery near the Chabad House, killing nine people, including five women and a foreigner, and injuring 45 in the first major attack since 26/11 carnage.

The improvised explosive device, kept in a packet outside the kitchen of the German bakery, exploded at around 7.30 pm when a waiter attempted to open it.

The Union Home Minister said it appears that a "person or more persons pretending as customers seem to have come to the German bakery and one of them might have left a backpack under a table" in the bakery.

Denying any "intelligence failure" with regard to the incident, he said police had been sensitised about Osho Ashram and Chabad House, which are located in the area.

"So, this area is on the radar of terrorists. There is no intelligence failure, but please remember this is not an overt attack by gunmen. This an insidious bomb that had been planted in what appears to be a backpack."

He said the Pune Police had in the past "sensitised all the establishments in the area, especially in North Main Road... that they should take measures in order to keep away or at least identify potential trouble-makers.

"In some bigger establishments, some mock-drills were conducted. But it is not that they were sensitised every day. They were sensitised as this is the area, which is on the radar of terrorists, being the location of Chabad House in the general neighbourhood... this area was vulnerable," he said.

Asked if anyone has been detained in this connection, he replied, "We will not give you hourly reports on detention or interrogation, that is very wrong. The police should not do that and they have been advised not to do that."

He said the media will be given information periodically whenever necessary and asked it not to "speculate".

Chidamabaram said the forensic scientists, including those from Delhi, have gathered samples and "we would shortly have a report on what kind of explosives were used".

"Let the analysis report come, then we will be able to identify what explosives were used and what trigger was used and then we can draw some conclusions."

Asked whether any particular terrorist outfit was involved, including the Indian Mujahideen, Chidambaram said: "We are not ruling out anything and ruling in anything."

On links of Headley's recce and Saturday's blast, he said it would be "premature" to draw any conclusion.

"David Headley had surveyed the Chabad House, that is a fact. At the moment, it is a stand-alone fact. Whether this particular incident is related to that, it is premature to answer that. We have to wait for the investigation to find out who perhaps is behind this incident."

To a question whether the blast would affect the proposed Foreign Secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan, the Minister said, "I have not come here to answer questions on the diplomatic or external affairs side. Those are matters we will consider in Delhi... that we will discuss when I get back to Delhi."

Asked if the state government did not take intelligence inputs seriously, he said, "No, it is not correct. The state government had taken the advice seriously and the police put in place security measures in the hard targets... what has happened is an insidious planting of the bomb."

For more on the Pune Blast, click here!