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19/09/2010 | Gunfire in India raises security concerns ahead of Commonwealth Games

Mark Magnier

Two tourists are wounded, and the incident in New Delhi sparks a major manhunt. The Indian Mujahedin, a militant group that has threatened to attack next month's sporting event, claims responsibility.


Two gunmen opened fire Sunday on tourists near one of India's largest mosques, injuring two Taiwanese before making their escape on a motorcycle, raising security concerns two weeks before India hosts a major international sporting event.

The tourists were shot about 11:10 a.m. as they were boarding a bus parked near the Jama Masjid mosque in New Delhi's crowded, labyrinthian old city, police said, sparking a major manhunt and a security alert in the Indian capital and Mumbai.

A few hours after the attack, the BBC's Hindi-language service said it received an e-mail purportedly sent by the Indian Mujahedin, an Islamic militant group, which threatened to attack the upcoming Commonwealth Games.

"We know preparations for the games are at their peak," the e-mail reportedly said. "Beware, we too are preparing in full swing for a great surprise."

Police said it was not clear whether the e-mail was related to the attack and downplayed the likelihood it was the work of an organized terror group, saying it could have been done by disgruntled youths or a gang of local criminals.

There were also reports that a car caught fire two hours later in the same area under suspicious circumstances.

Indian officials, who have sought to reassure tourists, athletes and foreign governments for months that the capital is safe, were quick to point to the extensive precautions and high level of security in place.

Over 5,000 athletes are set to arrive within days for the Oct. 3-14 Games, which will feature teams from 71 countries.

"Please do not panic," said Sheila Dikshit, New Delhi's top elected official. "An incident like this is something worrying, but nothing to panic about."

But analysts said the incident likely would raise concerns among national sports delegations and individuals planning to attend the Games, which have already seen weak ticket sales after media reports of infrastructure problems, alleged corruption and a dengue fever epidemic.

Shortly after Sunday's shooting, the U.S. Embassy issued a security advisory warning Americans to "maintain a heightened situational awareness."

Palaniappan Chidambaram, India's home minister, visited the two injured Taiwanese men in the hospital after one underwent an operation for a stomach wound.

Analysts said the apparent random targeting of tourists and the mosque location suggested that any of several groups could be involved.

"It's a bit surprising those hit were Taiwanese," said Rahul Bronsle, a retired brigadier general and head of, an analysis group. "If it was a Commonwealth person injured, one could think they were going after the games. But a stray attack on any tourist raises a number of other speculations."

While the attack may be directed at the Games, it also could be linked to divided Kashmir — where nearly 100 people have died since June in clashes with Indian security forces — or to a legal decision expected on Friday over a disputed religious site in Ayodhya that has sparked tension and past deadly riots between Muslims and Hindus.

Sunday was also the second anniversary of an incident in which two alleged Indian Mujahedin militants were killed by police.

The Indian Mujahedin, which reportedly has ties with the banned Pakistan-based Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, was outlawed in June amid suspicion that it played a part in an attack on a bakery in the western Indian city of Pune in which 10 people died and was behind blasts in several cities.

*Anshul Rana in the Times' New Delhi bureau contributed to this report.

Los Angeles Times (Estados Unidos)


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