NEW DEHLI: Western nations have warned citizens travelling to India that New Delhi could be the target of bomb blasts, with shopping areas and busy markets said to be prime targets. Advice issued by the US and Canada late on Wednesday night, which prompted new warnings from Britain and Australia on Thursday, cited “specific” information of possible militant strikes.
The new alerts updated long-standing general advice for western visitors to India that they should exercise caution. “There are increased indications that terrorists are planning attacks in New Delhi,” the US embassy in New Delhi said in a statement on its website, urging tourists to avoid halfa- dozen of the city’s shopping areas and markets. India is home to a wide range of separatists and insurgents, but both homegrown and home-grown terror groups are considered the most dangerous threat.
A growing Maoist insurgency, so far concentrated in remote rural areas of northern and eastern India, also threatens to spread to urban areas, with the eastern city of Kolkata seen as particularly at risk. The last major attack in New Delhi was a series of bomb blasts in busy, upmarket shopping areas in September 2008 that killed 22 people and wounded 100 more. A spokesman at India’s home ministry said that nationwide security was reviewed on a regular basis, but that he was unaware of any specific new threat.
“All security measures are in place. We are always alert to any kind of threat,” a spokesman said, asking not to be named in line with standard Indian government practice. The new travel warnings come at a time when India is preparing to host the Commonwealth Games in October, set to draw 8,000 foreign athletes and officials, and is battling to salvage its image as a safe host. Last weekend, 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 among sportsmen and women.
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 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. In the new travel advisories, the Canadian government said that an attack could be carried out “in the following days or weeks in market areas” of Delhi frequented by foreigners, specifically in the Chandni Chowk area in Old Delhi. A statement from the British High Commission said that “there are increased indications that terrorists are planning attacks in New Delhi.”
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