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Hindu leaders blame Pakistan for India blast

India says it will wait for the findings of an investigation into this weekend's bakery bombing before responding to Hindu leaders' demands to cancel peace talks with Pakistan.
/ Source: The Associated Press

India said Sunday it would wait for the findings of an investigation into this weekend's bakery bombing before responding to Hindu nationalists' demands to cancel upcoming peace talks with Pakistan, amid suspicions Islamic militants plotted the attack.

The explosion Saturday, caused by a bomb left in an unattended bag at a venue popular with tourists, killed nine people and wounded 60. It was the first major terrorist attack in India since the 2008 Mumbai massacre when Pakistan-based militants ran amok in the country's financial hub.

Security forces were immediately put on high alert at airports, train stations and markets across India.

The bombing came just a day after nuclear rivals India and Pakistan set a date for their first formal dialogue since the Mumbai attacks prompted New Delhi to suspend wide-ranging talks aimed at normalizing relations after six decades of hostility.

On Sunday, Hindu nationalist leaders blamed the attack in the western city of Pune on majority-Muslim Pakistan and demanded the government call off the talks, scheduled for Feb. 25 in New Delhi.

Arun Jaitley of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party said India shouldn't restart peace talks until Pakistan stops allowing terrorists to base themselves there and punishes those involved in the Mumbai attacks.

"Terrorism and talks can't coexist," Jaitley said.

'We condemn terrorism'
Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said he would wait for the forensic experts' report on the bombing before commenting on the opposition demand.

In Pakistan, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani denounced the blast and indicated his government still wants the new talks to go ahead.

"We condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations," Gilani told reporters.

The blast ripped open the German Bakery in Pune, 125 miles (200 kilometers) southeast of Mumbai. Thick patches of blood and severed limbs littered the popular hangout, which is close to the Osho Ashram, a popular meditation retreat, and a Jewish center officials say were previously scouted by a terrorist suspect now detained in the U.S.

Officials said one or two people posing as customers left a backpack containing a bomb in the bakery that exploded at 7:30 p.m. Saturday after a waiter apparently attempted to open it.

Two foreigners — one Iranian and an Italian — were among those killed in the blast, said Satyapal Singh, the city police commissioner. Twelve foreigners were wounded — five Iranians, one Yemeni, two Sudanese, two Nepalese and one each from Germany and Taiwan.

Police and forensic experts cordoned off the blast site and searched the debris for clues, but Singh said Sunday police were yet to detain any suspects.

The bakery is about 200 yards from the meditation center that Home Secretary G.K. Pillai said had been surveyed by David Headley, who is facing charges in Chicago for allegedly scouting targets for the November 2008 Mumbai attack. Another senior official said Headley had also observed the Chabad House Jewish center near the bakery.

The center's rabbi, Betzalel Kupchik, told Israel's Army Radio station that four months earlier, Pune police warned him of possible attacks and stationed a guard around the clock at the center.

"We are not worried," Kupchik said. "We sleep here and eat here and hope for the best."

Relations strain
Saturday's bombing was the first major terrorist strike in India since 10 Pakistan-based gunmen rampaged through hotels and a train station in the financial hub of Mumbai for 60 hours in November 2008, killing 166 people.

Some 15 months on, and ties between India and Pakistan appear to be warming, although there are still occasional skirmishes on their disputed border in the Himalayan region of Kashmir over which the South Asian neighbors have fought two wars.

The Indian army accused Pakistani soldiers of unprovoked firing at Indian positions on the cease-fire line late Saturday using automatic guns and rockets for nearly two hours.

There was no immediate comment from Pakistan's army.