Monday, February 15, 2010

A bomb in Pune at the German Bakery killed 9 people and injured 57 more on Sunday. India is sadly no stranger to terrorism, but this attack, which is thus far unclaimed, proves that terrorist groups still have the capacity to initiate attacks inside India and brings troubling ramifications for India and the West.

The Mumbai attacks of November 2008 also explicitly targeted foreigners, most notably well-heeled business travelers at the Taj and Oberoi Hotels, but also common tourists at the popular Leopold's Cafe, featured in Gregory David Roberts' Shantaram, and foreign Jews at the Orthodox Nariman House.

At first blush, last weekend's attack on the German Bakery in Pune seems similar - attacking a spot always flush with foreigners. However, the demographics of the German Bakery set it apart from the Mumbai attacks. 
Located near the Osho Ashram, the Bakery was frequented by foreign followers of the guru - you may remember Osho as the "sex guru" who was deported from the U.S. in the 1980s after his commune in Oregon had legal problems. Needless to say, the free-love-seeking devotees have little in common with the Titans of Industry who lodge at the Taj Hotel. Having been there myself, and belonging to neither the elite business class nor the "dirty hippie" class, I can attest that the clientele were predominately foreigners from the Ashram, mixed with other expatriates and a large number of Pune locals.

The fact that the attack was successful illustrates that those responsible, whomever they may be, have not been deterred or disrupted by security upgrades since the Mumbai attacks. Clearly determined to attack Westerners, these terrorists make no distinction about the national origin, profession, or religion of their targets - all foreigners are evidently seen as fair game. Pune is not on the standard tourist itinerary of India, and sees relatively few outsiders. As such, it has only a few prominent meeting spots for Westerners, and the German Bakery was one. The fact that the Pune police were unable to secure the few targets in their city is a worrisome indicator of incompetence.

The motivation for the bombing also seems to diverge from the Mumbai attacks, although this cannot be confirmed until someone takes credit. The commonly accepted belief is that the attacks in Mumbai were carried out by Pakistani extremists, most likely in an effort to exacerbate tensions between India and Pakistan and redirect the attention of the Pakistani military to the Indian border, away from fighting extremists in the NWFP. The Pune bombing does not fit this model, nor is Pune, an inland city, an easily infiltrated target from Pakistan. This points to the culprit being a domestic Indian group, with unclear motives. There are several possible suspects, but the Indian Government is unsurprisingly shifting the blame to Pakistan-based extremist groups.

Regardless of responsibility, the message sent by this bombing is clear - foreigners are the target, and no location is too small or too big for attack.


Datura said...

Well its a little disingenuous to say the Indian government is shifting the blame, when they have repeatedly been able to demonstrate terrorism links to Pakistan.

Meanwhile a Pakistani group has laid claim to this already.

Dave Reidy said...

Great point Datura - India has been able to conclusively prove links to Pakistan in previous terrorist attacks, most notably the Mumbai attacks and the 2001 bombing of the Indian Parliament. What I meant by that was that signs seemed to point more towards a domestic terror group, like IM.

I'm curious and slightly suspicious about this new group claiming credit for the attack. I'm not surprised that there is a splinter group from LeT, but the German Bakery in Pune seems like an odd target. If their issue is Kashmir, as they claim, then I would expect an attack in Kashmir. Or, if they split from LeT in protest over ISI control, I would expect an attack in Pakistan.

I don't have any specific information to make me doubt their claim, but it just seems a bit off to me.

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