x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Two shot in attack on Delhi mosque

Tourists are hit by machinegun fire as pressure grows on Indian security forces two weeks before the opening of the Commonwealth Games.

Two gunmen opened fire with sub-machineguns outside Delhi's main mosque yesterday, wounding two Taiwanese tourists and raising fears that militants plan to attack the Commonwealth Games next month. The attackers fired randomly from a motorcycle at a tourist minibus as it waited near the Jama Masjid mosque in central Delhi. Witnesses said the gunmen were wearing helmets and raincoats, and opened fire on the mosque first before turning on the minibus.

"According to our preliminary investigation, they finished off an entire magazine of their gun," said Jagbir Singh, the assistant police commissioner. One of the victims was shot in the stomach and had undergone surgery, said Amit Banerjee, the head of Lok Narayan Jay Prakash Hospital. The other has a superficial head wound, he said. An e-mail to media outlets claimed responsibility for the attack in the name of the Indian Mujahideen, although experts cast doubt on its authenticity. The group has been blamed for a number of bomb attacks in Indian cities in 2007 and 2008, and the bombing of a bakery in Pune in February. It is known to have links to the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group thought to be behind the attacks on Mumbai of November 2008.

The e-mail said: "In the name of Allah, the attack is a tribute to Atif Amin and Mohammed Sajid." Amin and Sajid were Indian Mujahideen operatives killed by the police following attacks in New Delhi in September 2008. "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. The participants in the Games will be responsible for the outcome."

Experts say the claim does not fit previous operating procedure for the group. "All past warnings by the Indian Mujahideen have come seconds before or after an attack, along with evidence of their involvement. It was always the same pattern," said Praveen Swami, associate editor of The Hindu newspaper and an expert on Islamist groups in South Asia. "Secondly, the people who put out those e-mails are now in jail and there have been no e-mails since then. One cannot be sure at this stage, but I am not sure this claim is authentic," he said. The police have been keen to put the blame on a "disgruntled gang of criminals" who want to discredit the police ahead of the Games. One senior police source said: "The claim sent to various media outlets is not reliable because the attack was carried out in a very unprofessional and crude manner, which no organised terrorist group would do." With the Commonwealth Games due to begin on October 3, community tensions are also high before a court ruling on Friday on the decades-old religious dispute over the ownership of the Babri Mosque in the temple town of Ayodhya. An estimated 2,000 people died in Hindu-Muslim violence that erupted over the dispute in 1992. Analysts believe that long delays in the preparations for the Games have left them vulnerable to attack. "If you had asked me a couple of months ago, I would have said there was absolutely no chance of an attack," said Ajai Sahni of the Institute for Conflict Management. "But considering the complete disarray, I am now not so sure. "The organisers have left no time for the kind of drills and protocols needed. They have opened a lot of windows that should have been shut. I am far from satisfied with the conditions the security forces are being forced to operate in." Construction is still going on at several Games venues and in many of Delhi's central areas, with organisers having repeatedly missed deadlines for the completion of work. "The security forces cannot sanitise a construction site," Mr Sahni said. "And almost every venue is a construction site. People are coming and going, materials are being brought in, and there is hardly any oversight. This is not how you manage the security for event of this magnitude." Fears over security at the Games have been raised in the past. Last month the Australian swimmer Dawn Fraser, an eight-time Olympic medal winner, called for a boycott of the event. "There are now too many question marks for our officials not to consider it. I would hate to see another Munich," Fraser said. Eleven Israeli athletes and sports officials died after being taken hostage by terrorists at the Munich Olympics in 1972. Recently Commonwealth Games organisers have sought to allay fears, saying that security is fully under control. "The shooting incident this morning in Delhi will have no impact on the Commonwealth Games," said Lalit Bhanot, the secretary-general of the Organising Committee. "The Ministry of Home Affairs and Delhi Police have made elaborate arrangements to provide the Commonwealth Games athletes and officials a safe and secure environment.  "The Commonwealth Games Associations of the nations and territories have been satisfied with the plans and preparations made by Delhi Police and the International Security Liaison Group, formed by the Ministry of Home Affairs." foreign.desk@thenational.ae