среда, 29 декабря 2010 г.

India issues nationwide terror alert

Indian authorities have deployed thousands of security personnel following warnings that Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based militant group, is planning an attack over the New Year weekend.

Police officers and paramilitaries were on high alert across the country, including in India's financial capital, Mumbai, Indian officials said. House-to-house searches were under way in some areas of the city, which was attacked by Lashkar-e-Taiba in November 2008. Airports and railway stations, the city of Ahmedabad in the western state of Gujarat and the popular beach resort state of Goa were also on high alert following the warning, said to be based on "human" intelligence and received in recent days.

Most of the locations covered by the alert had been visited by David Headley, a Pakistani-American and member of Lashkar-e-Taiba who travelled widely in India before the Mumbai attack, one official told the Guardian. Headley was tasked by the extremist group with surveillance of targets in Mumbai itself but also visited Goa and the city of Pune, where there was a blast in February.

According to a secret report by Indian investigators of their interrogation of Headley in June, the undercover militant brought back film and notes on potential targets in India such as Jewish centres and tourist resorts favoured by Israelis which he passed on to his handlers.

In his interrogation, Headley claimed that he frequently combined missions for Lashkar-e-Taiba with missions for the main Pakistani spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI). His last trips to India before his arrest in Chicago in October last year were on behalf of a veteran Pakistani militant with links to al-Qaida called Ilyas Kashmiri, he said.

India has taken all terror threats seriously since the three-day terrorist siege killed 166 people in Mumbai two years ago, when 10 armed terrorists landed by sea before fanning out across the city to attack two luxury hotels, a Jewish centre and a railway station. The strike badly damaged Indian relations with Pakistan.

In March, Mumbai police said they prevented a major terrorist strike after they arrested two Indian men, who they believed were preparing to hit several targets in the city.

Then in September police issued a terror alert for the city during a popular Hindu festival after receiving information that two Islamist militants were planning a terror strike acting on directions from handlers in Pakistan.

Earlier this month a small bomb exploded in the northern city of Varanasi, which is holy to Hindus. The attack was blamed on Indian Muslim militants.

Police have been searching since Friday for four men who authorities believe have entered Mumbai to carry out a terrorist attack. Computer-aided photographs of the four suspects have been released. Police have also tightened security checks at bus and train stations, churches and markets.
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