Attack stirs Indian security fears

Homegrown group's threat to disrupt Commonwealth Games follows Delhi shooting, with Kashmir unrest as backdrop.

    Indian security forces been battling for months to quell angry pro-independence demonstrations in Kashmir [AFP]

    Organisers of the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in India have offered assurances the event will be safe, a day after a random shooting attack in Delhi left two Taiwanese tourists injured.

    The incident occurred just a fortnight before an estimated 7,000 athletes and officials from countries in the former British empire visit the Indian capital for the multi-sport event that starts on October 3.

    "Yesterday's shooting was a one-off incident which was not targeted at the Games," Suresh Kalmadi, chairman of the organising committee, told the AFP news agency on Monday. "All security measures for the athletes and tourists who will be coming for the Games are well taken care of. I assure that."

    Two attackers on a motorbike opened fire outside Delhi's main mosque on Sunday, injuring the two Taiwanese as they were travelling in a tourist minibus. The city had been placed on high alert on Monday.

    Australian warning

    Following the shooting, Australia gave warning of a "high risk of terrorism" at the Games - the latest in a long line of concerns expressed by participating nations about possible attacks from homegrown or Pakistan-based armed groups.

    John Key, New Zealand's prime minister, said the country's sports chiefs would decide this week whether to send athletes, acting on the advice of security experts.

    In response to the attacks, Indian authorities directed police to step up the investigation and tighten security across the city.

    An email purportedly from the Indian Mujahidin, a homegrown group with alleged links to armed groups in Pakistan, was sent to the BBC and some local media after the attack.

    The Press Trust of India news agency quoted the group as saying: "We are warning you. If you have the guts, then organise the Commonwealth Games ... We know that preparations are in full swing.

    "Be prepared ... We are also making preparations."

    Kashmir connection

    Speaking to Al Jazeera from New Delhi on Monday, General Ashok Mehta, an independent security analyst in India, said that in the five-page email, Indian Mujahidin also said they were going to take revenge for what is happening in Indian-administered Kashmir.

    More than 100 civilians in the region have been killed in three months in clashes that have pitched stone-throwing protesters against Indian security forces, who have frequently opened fire with live ammunition.

    An all-party group of Indian politicians travelled there on Monday to try to defuse tensions, but important local leaders refused to meet them, saying India had no answers to the region's crisis.

    Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik, two prominent separatist leaders, declined to meet with the delegation.

    "It is a farce that they ceme here, saying they are assessing the situation, when everyone knows that innocents are being killed and the curfews have turned much of Kashmir into a jail," Farooq told AFP.

    Armed struggle

    Kashmir has witnessed a 20-year armed struggle against Indian rule. A campaign of protest rallies against Indian rule intensified from the second week of June, resulting in mounting fatalities.

    Many of those killed in the protests have been young men or teenagers, and news of each death has brought more people on to the streets and led to further deadly clashes with the Indian security forces.

    Curfews and strikes have shut down Srinagar, the capital of Indian Kashmir, and many other towns for weeks at a time, with residents complaining of shortages of food and essential medicine.

    India and Pakistan fought wars over Kashmir in 1947-8, leaving it divided between Indian and Pakistani sectors, and again in 1965.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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