India restaurant bomb kills 9

At
least nine people have been killed and 57 others injured in a bomb attack at a
restaurant in India’s western city of Pune, officials say.

The
explosion tore through the German Bakery, which is popular with tourists, in
Koregaon Park.

The
bombing is the first major strike of its kind in India since the deadly Mumbai
attacks in November 2008.

Reports
that one of the dead is a foreign national have not yet been confirmed by the
Indian authorities.

Several
foreigners were said to be among the injured.

The
explosion at the restaurant, on North Main Road, happened at about 1900 (1330
GMT), when it was packed with diners.

“It
appears that an unattended package was noticed in the bakery by one of the
waiters who apparently attempted to open the package when the blast took
place,” Indian Home Secretary GK Pillai was quoted as saying by the
Associated Press news agency.

“We
heard a big noise and we all rushed out. The impact was so great that there
were body parts everywhere,” Vinod Dhale, who works at the restaurant,
told Reuters.

‘High
alert’

Anti-terror
squad officers have gone to the scene.

Nearby
shops were badly damaged and reported to have been splattered with blood.

“I
came running to the bakery after hearing the explosion. I found people lying
all over the place”, local resident Abba More told AP.

Initial
reports had suggested the explosion was caused by a gas cylinder.

The
German Bakery is near the Osho Ashram, a mystic centre popular with visitors to
Pune.

The
Chabad centre, run by the Jewish Orthodox Chabad-Lubavitch movement, is also in
the vicinity.

Members
of the Chabad-Lubavitch were targeted in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and in
October 2009 the home ministry issued a security alert for the Chabad centre in
Pune.

No-one
has yet said they carried out the latest attack.

However
Home Minister P Chidambaram described it as “a significant terrorist
incident”.

“All
the evidence points to a deliberate plot,” he told AFP.

The
bomb blast comes a day after India and Pakistan agreed to meet for talks in
Delhi on February 25.

The
talks will be their first formal negotiations since the Mumbai attacks.

No
conclusions could be drawn yet as to who was responsible for the blast, Mr
Pillai said.

“Forensic
investigations have just begun. Till they are completed, we will not know who
is [involved]”, he told AP.

The home ministry has
issued an advisory to all state governments to be on high alert.