NEW DELHI — Indian authorities on Saturday issued a national alert after eight people were killed and at least 32 were wounded when an explosive hidden in an unclaimed bag detonated inside a German bakery in a neighborhood popular with foreign tourists in the western Indian city of Pune.
Investigative teams from New Delhi were flying to Pune, and the authorities had not linked the attack to any terrorist organizations or publicly identified any suspects or motive. But the timing is certain to complicate the recent overture by India to resume the high-level talks with Pakistan that broke off after the November 2008 attacks on Mumbai by Pakistani militants. India has demanded that Pakistan confront domestic terrorist groups as a condition of resuming diplomatic talks.
The Indian home secretary, G. K. Pillai, speaking to reporters on Saturday night, said the bomb blast occurred in a Pune neighborhood visited by David Headley, the son of a former Pakistani diplomat who has been charged with helping to plot the Mumbai attacks. Mr. Headley is accused of doing reconnaissance for the attacks for a Pakistan-based terrorist group called Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Mr. Pillai said the police had been alerted last October that Mr. Headley “had surveyed 200 yards from the bakery,” but he added that it was too early to say if Lashkar-e-Taiba was involved in the Pune attack.
The explosion happened on Saturday evening as the streets were crowded with people. Speaking to reporters on national television, Mr. Pillai said a waiter inside the bakery “apparently went and attempted to open the package when the blast took place.” Wounded survivors were rushed to local hospitals, with several people reported in critical condition. Mr. Pillai confirmed that at least one of the dead was a foreigner, of unconfirmed nationality. The bakery is near the Osho Ashram, a high-end yoga and meditation retreat that caters to visitors from around the world. It is also near a Chabad House that attracts Israeli visitors and is one of many outposts around the world meant to welcome Jewish visitors.
In the 2008 Mumbai attacks, a Chabad House was among the sites singled out, along with hotels, a restaurant and a train station. The attack left 163 people and 9 gunmen dead.
In Pune, the police had started their investigation as teams from the Central Bureau of Investigation and the National Investigative Agency were en route from New Delhi. Ashok Chavan, chief minister of the state of Maharashtra, which includes Pune, said investigators initially thought the blast had been caused by a gas explosion before realizing it had been a bomb.
“I think we have to be cautious,” Mr. Chavan said, when asked on television whether he could reassure the residents of Pune. “We have to be alert. There is no reason to be panicky.”
In his interview, Mr. Pillai, the home secretary, noted that central intelligence agencies had notified the authorities in Maharashtra last year that Pune could be a terrorist target, based on the investigation of Mr. Headley. Pune is less than 100 miles from Mumbai, which has seen a huge police mobilization in recent days after a right-wing political group threatened to disrupt the opening of a movie.
Mr. Chavan had ordered more than 20,000 officers across the state to be posted at movie houses to prevent supporters of the Shiv Sena political party to block the movie’s opening.
Meanwhile in New Delhi, the Home Ministry issued a national alert warning people to notify the police if they saw any unidentified bags or packages. Across the city, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party was already questioning whether the blast was the result of complacency regarding security measures by the national government, led by the Congress Party. A party spokesman also added: “It seems that terror has struck back again in the backdrop of talks with Pakistan.”