Pune probe focuses on two men who bought cycles, spoke Hindi, Gujarati

Investigators probing Wednesday's multiple low-intensity bomb blasts in Pune are looking for two men suspected to be in their late 20s, who spoke in Hindi and Gujarati and tried to buy second-hand bicycles in the city. They ended up buying three new bicycles as they apparently could not find any old ones on sale.

Three of the six bombs placed on Jangli Maharaj Road on Wednesday evening were kept in the front baskets of these cycles. Of the six, only four exploded and injured one person, while the other two were defused by the police.

Police said that two of the three bicycles were bought from Cycle Trading Company, located in the prime cycle market of the city. Its owner Sujit Deshmukh and his two workers were questioned on Thursday, and sketches of the two men were being prepared based on the description they gave, Joint Commissioner of Police Sanjivkumar Singhal told reporters.

Police sources said that the two men who bought the bicycles were aged between 25 and 30 and wore jackets when they went to Deshmukh's shop in Budhwar Peth near Fadke Haud, around 10 am, a day before the blasts. The duo were at this shop for about half an hour, and apparently first asked about the availability of second-hand bicycles.

The sources said that the suspects may have planned to plant the bombs in second hand bicycles as they are difficult to trace. But on learning that second hand bicycles are not sold at shops here, they may have decided to purchase new ones.

Accordingly, they bought two Hero cycles along with the baskets or front carriers where the explosives were placed. They paid Soni Rs 7,200 in cash for which they were given a receipt. Police have seized the shop owner's copy of the receipt and suspect the name of the buyer on it is fake. The suspects rode the new bicycles as they left the shop, sources added.

The police are yet to ascertain where the third bicycle was bought. They are also studying CCTV footage from private CCTV cameras installed on J M Road and around Soni.

In Mumbai, top police sources said that the probe would also focus on the blasts were a dry-run for coordinated blasts of much higher intensity. "There was a definite plan behind these low-intensity blasts, and it looks like multiple persons were involved in the operation. We believe that the group that planted these bombs could have the capacity of executing more sophisticated operations. One of the main lines of investigation being pursued at the moment is that this was merely a dry-run for a coordinated strike aimed at wreaking much greater destruction in the future," said a top Maharashtra Police officer, on condition of anonymity.

"The Ganesh Chaturthi festivities begin on September 19, and large crowds are expected to gather in Pune and Mumbai during this period. There is always the threat of a terror attack at such times," added the officer.

Meanwhile, a team of the Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad left for Pune on Thursday to study the blasts as they suspect there were similarities in the explosives found on J M Road and the live bombs found in Surat in July 2008. (With inputs from Sagnik Chowdhury in Mumbai and Ujjwala Nayudu in Ahmedabad)

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