US warns of possible 'imminent' militant attacks in Delhi

Afp May 01, 2010

NEW DEHLI: The US embassy in India warned on Saturday of possible "imminent" militant attacks in New Delhi as it heightened the threat security awareness level for its citizens in the capital.

"There are increased indications that terrorists are planning imminent attacks in New Delhi," the US embassy said in a statement on its website, urging tourists to avoid half-a-dozen of the city's popular shopping areas.

The advisory marked an increase in the threat awareness level for US residents and visitors to the Indian capital. Earlier in April the embassy had said there were "increased indications that terrorists are planning attacks in New Delhi."

"Americans traveling or residing in India are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance," the embassy said in its notice. The US advisory warned that popular markets located in New Delhi, such as Connaught Place in the heart of the city, could "be especially attractive targets for terrorist groups."

Other Western nations have warned of attacks on foreigners in New Delhi, heightening security concerns in the capital, but no new advisories from other countries had been announced on Saturday.

A spokesman for India's Ministry of Home Affairs said that "security is adequate" in the capital. Police in New Delhi, which has been targeted before by militants, have increased security around markets and tourist hotspots in response to the previous US warning of a specific threat of attacks in the Indian capital.

India is home to a wide range of separatists and insurgents, but Islamist terror groups, both homegrown and from across the border in Pakistan, are considered the most dangerous threat. The last major attack in New Delhi was a series of bomb blasts in busy upmarket shopping areas in September 2008 that left 22 people dead and wounded 100 more.

Earlier in April, two low-intensity bombs went off at a cricket stadium in the southern city of Bangalore ahead of an Indian Premier League game, causing fresh jitters. India has been battling to salvage its image as a safe host as it readies for the Commonwealth Games in October, which are expected to draw 8,000 foreign athletes.

In February, a bomb ripped through a crowded restaurant popular with travellers in the western city of Pune, killing 16 people, including five foreigners.

It was the first major incident since the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which 10 gunmen launched an assault on multiple targets in India's financial capital, killing 166 people.

The run-up to the field hockey World Cup in February and March was overshadowed by concern that some teams might pull out, with one British team source telling AFP that the team only decided to attend at the last minute. Ultimately, the tournament went ahead with a heavy police presence and passed off without incident, ending with an Australian victory in the final.


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