Security fears after India shooting

2010-09-20 11:15

New Delhi - Two gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire at tourists near one of India's biggest mosques, wounding two Taiwanese and raising concerns about security less than two weeks before an international sporting event in the Indian capital.

The gunmen shot randomly at the tourists as they were about to board a bus parked near the Jama Masjid mosque, police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat said.

The 17th century mosque is a popular tourist destination in the heart of the city.

Police launched a massive search for the gunmen and issued a security alert across the Indian capital.

Hours later, the BBC's Hindi language service said it received an email purportedly from the Indian Mujahideen, an Islamic militant group, threatening to attack the upcoming Commonwealth Games.

Police cautioned that the email and Sunday's attack could be unrelated.

"We are investigating the attack on the tourists from all angles," said Karnail Singh, a joint commissioner of police.

Security at an ‘unprecedented high’

Officials quickly tried to reassure athletes and the public that security in the city was at an unprecedented high.

Thousands of athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations are to compete in the games, which are held every four years.

New Delhi's top elected official, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, appealed for calm, declaring the city was safe to host the October 3 to 14 games in which 71 teams are to take part.

"Please do not panic. An incident like this is something worrying, but nothing to panic about," Dikshit told reporters.

The secretary-general of the games organising committee, Lalit Bhanot, said the shooting would have "no impact" on the event.

Indian authorities "have made elaborate arrangements to provide the Commonwealth Games athletes and officials a safe and secure environment," Bhanot said in a statement.

Stable condition

Federal Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram visited the two Taiwanese men in the hospital after one had surgery for a stomach wound.

They were in stable condition, said Jaspal Singh, a top police official.

The area around the mosque was cordoned off after the attack and police scoured the densely populated alleys around it. Cars and other vehicles were checked at barriers erected on major roads in the city.

Police said witnesses could give few details about the assailants.

"Eyewitnesses have told us the men were wearing raincoats and helmets. They fired around seven rounds before they sped away," Karnail Singh said.

The Indian Mujahideen, which has been linked to the banned Pakistan-based Islamist rebel group Lashkar-e-Taiba, was outlawed in June after it was suspected of involvement in an attack on a popular bakery in western India in which 10 people died.