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Gunmen target tourists in Delhi 13 days before Commonwealth Games

Last updated on: September 19, 2010 19:34 IST

Gunmen target tourists in Delhi 13 days before Commonwealth Games

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Vicky Nanjappa & Sahim Salim

Two unidentified motorcycle-borne men opened fire at a tourist bus outside the Jama Masjid in Delhi on Sunday, causing injuries to two tourists from Taiwan.

A red alert has been sounded across New Delhi after the incident in which the two bikers are said to have fired 7-8 rounds on the stationary vehicle adjacent to gate number three of the mosque and 100 metres away from the house of Shahi Imam Ahmed Bukhari at around 11.30 am.

The Indian Mujahideen have taken responsibility for the attack.

The two tourists aged between 26 and 28 have been admitted to the Lok Nayak Jaiprakash Narayan Hospital. They are said to be out of danger. One of them was injured when a bullet grazed his head while another was hit in the abdomen and is being operated, LNJP Hospital Medical Superintendent Amit Banerjee said.

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Image: The vehicle, which local media say Taiwanese tourists were travelling, is seen near the shooting spot
Photographs: B Mathur/Reuters
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We are looking into all angles, say cops

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According to eyewitnesses, two men on a motorcycle wearing raincoats fired indiscriminately at the bus. 

The attack is seen as a revenge against the capital city's police force for having killed two terrorists allegedly belonging to the Indian Mujahideen group in an encounter on this day two years ago.

Atif Ameen and Mohammad Sajid were killed in Batla House area of Jamia Nagar in an encounter by a Special Cell team of the Delhi police. Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma of the special cell, who led the operation, had also been killed in the encounter. 

Delhi Police Joint Commissioner Karnail Singh told media persons that the four cartridges recovered from the spot showed that the weapon used could be .38 calibre revolver.

But the rounds of fire recovered were also of 9 mm, which can be used in pistol or carbine, he said refusing to hazard a guess on the motive of the attackers. "We are looking into all angles and we cannot jump to conclusions," he said.


Image: Police stand guard outside Jama Masjid after the shooting incident
Photographs: Reinhard Krause/Reuters
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Motive was to create panic ahead of the Games

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Although Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit has said that it was too early to presume that the attackers are terrorists, security agencies are looking at the timing of the attack.

The incident has occurred two weeks before the Commonwealth Games. The event is very high on the radar of terrorist organisations.

Interestingly, specific intelligence pertaining to an attack during the Games also speaks of an attack on tourists and athletes' vehicles on the lines of the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Pakistan.

Sources in the Delhi Police said that it was too early to assess the reason behind the attack and say that the primary concern at the moment is to nab the assailants.

Sources in the Intelligence Bureau, however, add that the motive was to create panic ahead of the Games and that some local module could be behind it.


Image: Police stand guard outside Jama Masjid after the shooting incident
Photographs: Reinhard Krause/Reuters
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It is not a routine criminal act, says IB

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Looking at the incident, they add, it is not a routine criminal act since there is no specific motive to target one person during the attack.

A large crowd gathered in the area while tourists who were there to visit the mosque left soon after the incident. Police said phone calls in the area are being scanned and armed personnel have been deployed in the locality.

Hours later, a blue Maruti car went up in flames, 40 meters away from the area.

"There was a blast from the car and it caught fire. We called Fire Department, who arrived within 15 minutes. By that time, we had doused the flames with water from nearby houses," an eyewitness, Ajmal Khan said.

Police officials used cranes and transported the vehicle into the police compound as evidence. Bomb Disposal Squads were called in to diffuse a possible bomb. Sources said that a burnt pressure cooker was recovered from the back seat of the car. Its contents have been transferred to a forensics lab to determine what materials were used to trigger the low scale explosion.


Image: A car that burst into flames is pictured near the scene of the shooting
Photographs: B Mathur/Reuters
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Owner has no idea how his car reached outside Jama Masjid

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"On basis of the number plate of the car (DL-6CB-1042), we traced the owner to Chandni Chowk. He has been identified as Bobby Sharma. He told us that he had parked his car elsewhere and has no idea how his car reached outside Jama Masjid. We are investigating the case and looking into all possible angles, including a terrorist attack. Prima facie, it looks like that car was stolen and parked near the mosque to trigger a small scale blast and create panic in the area," a policeman from Jama Masjid said.

Sharma's friend, Sunil said, "Bobby had parked the car near the cycle marlet as he had some work there. He is being questioned by the police now."

A team of the elite special cell team is investigating the incident.

Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari called it a "terrorist" incident aimed at creating panic, preventing foreign visitors from coming to the city and making the Games a "failure". "This has been done to spread panic in India so that people from outside do not come to Delhi... a conspiracy to make the Commonwealth Games a failure," he told reporters.


Image: A man removes rickshaws near the car which burst into flames near the scene
Photographs: B Mathur/Reuters
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'Beware, this is the initiative of Allah's lions'

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Asked if he feels terrorists were behind this, he said, "Killing innocent people, firing several rounds...doing all these things... this is terrorism and the authorities will have to find out who is responsible."

He said "outside forces" do not want peace and tranquillity in the country and the government will have to ensure security.

On Sunday afternoon, the Hindi Radio service of the British Broadcasting Corporation received a mail purportedly from the Indian Mujahideen, which claimed responsibility for the incident. In the mail, sent from al.arbi999123 @ gmail.com, they warned Delhi not to go through with the Commonwealth Games.

"Beware, this is the initiative of Allah's lions. We warn if you have the guts, you dare to organise Commonwealth Games. We know preparations for the Commonwealth Games are at their peak. Beware! We are also preparing to surprise all," the BBC Hindi Radio service quoted the threat mail, as stating. 


Image: A policeman points out to the bullet mark on the window of a vehicle after the shooting incident
Photographs: Reuters
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