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Four 'low-intensity' blasts shake western Indian city

August 01, 2012


Indian authorities work at the site of one of four low-intensity bomb blasts that shook the western Indian city of Pune on Wednesday. – Photo by AFP

MUMBAI: 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 questioned 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 blasts, which went off in quick succession after 7:30 pm (1400 GMT), targetted 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, said 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.

“The matter is under enquiry and as and when the enquiry is completed, I will let you know,” Shinde, a former chief minister of Maharashtra, told reporters in New Delhi.

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 the NDTV news channel.

“Life is normal, 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, the Press Trust of India news agency cited Indian Home Secretary R.K. Singh as saying a terror angle could not be ruled out given the “planned” nature of the blasts.

Police said initial reports suggested one of the bombs had gone off in a bag carried by the injured man.

“Our police team has gone to interrogate him and I am awaiting the reports.” One of the devices went off outside a McDonald's fast-food outlet while another was attached to a bicycle, police said.

The February 2010 bombing in Pune had targetted 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 that claimed 166 lives.

Although no arrests were made for the 2010 blast, the government said evidence pointed to the involvement of the Indian Mujahideen, a home-grown Islamic group with links to militants in Pakistan.