Pune (Maharashtra), Feb 12 (IANS) Thousands of Punekars Saturday prepared to pay homage to the victims of the German Bakery blast on the first anniversary Sunday of the terror attack here.
A series of memorial services, candle light processions and other tributes are planned across the city and near the venue of the blast which left 17 dead, including four foreigners, and another 65 injured.
Besides leaving a permanent scar on Punekars, the terror blast shattered the image of Pune as a quiet city, the academic and IT capital of the state, enjoying a salubrious climate round the year and making it one of the finest urban hubs in Maharashtra.
The blast also restricted movement of youngsters, especially in their favourite hang-out spots all over the city. The German Bakery was one such venue, popular with locals and foreigners alike.
While the Pune police made little headway in the investigations into the blast, it was only last September that the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) managed to crack the case and nabbed a prime suspect, Mirza Himayat Baig (29), believed to be the state unit leader of the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
In its chargesheet filed in a Pune court, the ATS has also named six other accused -- all co-conspirator and absconding -- Mohsin Choudhary, Yasin Bhatkal, Riyaz Bhatkal, Iqbal Bhatkal, Faiyaz Kagzi and Zabihuddin Ansari.
The ATS, which is continuing the investigations, has said that all are believed to be holed up abroad.
The squad nabbed Baig from Pune Sep 7 last year and recovered a large quantity of explosives from him.
Hailing from Beed, Baig had allegedly assembled the terror bomb in his Global Cybercafe in Udgir Feb 12, 2010 with the help of Choudhary and Yasin, both members of the terrorist group, Indian Mujahiddeen.
The next day, on the ill-fated morning of Sep 13, the trio left Udgir for Pune and managed to plant the bomb in the German Bakery.
In the Pune chill that weekend evening, the city's young crowd was warming up to the much-awaited Valentine's Day celebrations the following day.
Their celebrations were cut short at 6.55 p.m. when the bomb ripped through the bakery, claiming a total of 17 lives, mostly youth, and injuring another 65.
The victims were: Ankik Dhar, Anindeyee Dhar, Shilpa Goenka, Rajeev Agarwal, Atul Ganpat Anap, Vinita Gadani, Aditi Jindal, Aditya Jaiprakash Mehta, Gokul Nepali, Shankar Pansare, Abhishek Saxena, P. Sindhuri, Vikas Tulsiani, (all Indians); Nadia Macerini (Italian), Anaj Sulaiman (Sudanese), Saied Abdulkhani and Suleiman Alfatah (Iranians).
Investigations revealed that Baig was trained in handling arms and explosives in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo during his three-week stay there in July 2008.
His associates, Kagzi and Ansari, were the prime accused in the May 10, 2006 Aurangabad arms haul case. Ansari is also a suspect in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.
Similarly, Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal, both hailing from Bhatkal town in coastal Karnataka, provided logistical and other support for executing the terror operation.