India: Indian Mujahideen likely culprits in Pune bombings; Home Minister may have been intended target; no foreign jihadist involvementFriday, August 3rd, 2012
Four low-intensity explosions struck central Pune, in the western State of Maharashtra, within an hour of each other on the evening of 1 August, injuring one person. All were within a 500 metre radius. The first bomb went off near a theatre where Sushilkumar Shinde, appointed Union Home Minster that afternoon (see below), had been expected to attend an award ceremony. Another of the devices was planted outside a college, while two more exploded close to McDonalds and KFC restaurants in an area popular with students. Another bomb was defused outside a car showroom.
The attack was certainly planned before Shinde’s appointment was announced, but he had previously been Power Minister. This makes him a particularly high-profile target, since India was experiencing its worst power failure for more than a decade (see below).
The operation follows the 8 June murder of Mohammad Qateel Siddiqui, an Indian Mujahideen (IM) leader, in a Pune prison and came immediately after a Home Ministry tribunal’s recommendation to extend the ban on the Students Islamic Movement of India, a precursor of IM. Moreover, the crude nature of the devices used and the limited casualties suggest that IM are the culprits, although the State Home Minister has so far refused to rule out the involvement of Hindu extremists.
IM has not been linked to an attack since three explosions struck Mumbai last July, killing nineteen people. The unusually high death toll (for an IM bombing) suggested that foreign jihadists may also have been involved, as they were in the February 2010 blast which killed seventeen people at Pune’s German Bakery. International jihadists are therefore unlikely to have been involved in this instance. Nonetheless, an IM fundraiser was detained in Saudi Arabia on 18 May, the first definite confirmation of the group’s international linkages. IM is known to have recruited from Pune’s student population before and it may be that the group chose to act on the expected visit of a Union Minister to demonstrate its continued relevance to its supporters during Ramadan, which is associated with jihad. IM attacks rarely continue over more than one day, but further incidents cannot be ruled out.