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With Pune it was a matter of when, not if

February 13, 2010 23:55 IST
Although Saturday evening's blast at Pune's German Bakery is the first terror strike since the horrific 26/11 attacks on Mumbai, Pune was always on the radar of terrorists.

In fact, in the past four years, there have been eight alerts from the Intelligence Bureau regarding a terror strike being planned on the city.

The most recent alert was sounded off by the Union home ministry in October 2009 following the interrogation of suspected Lashkar operative David Headley by the FBI. Home Secretary G K Pillai too confirmed this at a press conference earlier in the evening.

Intelligence agencies say Pune has been a preferred target for terror groups since the past several years. Its proximity to Mumbai, playing host to a large number of foreigners, and the fact that the city is a tech hub are some of the main reasons for terrorists eyeing the city.

The first time Pune came into notice was when a key terrorist, Imran Bilal of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, was nabbed and interrogated by the Bengaluru, Kashmir and Hyderabad police forces. Bilal, who was sent to Bengaluru to carry out strikes at the Infosys campus, told interrogators that Pune was very high on the Lashkar radar and it was planning a major strike on key establishments there. Following this a high alert was sounded off in Pune. Bilal had also said that plans were being drawn up to strike in Pune following a major strike in Bengaluru.

The next big alert regarding Pune came to light when the Gujarat police picked up Mohammad Salim, a former employee of a dental college in Pune. Although he was picked up for his suspected role in the Gujarat blasts, his interrogation went on to reveal that he had recruited several youth from Pune to join the terror outfit. His interrogation made it clear that the Indian Mujahideen was going about recruiting several youth for its Pune module.

Apart from this the Mumbai police also managed to get a lot of information from Mansoor Peerbhoy, chief of the IM media cell following his arrest. He had told his interrogators that a majority of the techies were recruited from Pune and he had targeted several of them who had been laid off.

Vicky Nanjappa