HOMELAND SECURITY: Shooting fans Games scare – Call rush after Sunday shocks – terror politics, a disgusting problem of today ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY IMRAN AHMED SIDDIQUI
New Delhi, Sept. 19: Motorbike riders fired on Taiwanese tourists at the Jama Masjid’s gates today, a suspected car bomb went up in flames 60 metres away and the Indian Mujahideen sent a terror email.
Although it is yet to be established if the three events are connected to one another, they exposed security gaps and deepened worries two weeks before the Commonwealth Games.
Several countries expected at the Games flooded the police control room with anxious calls after the 11.25am firing, which came during rush hour in front of one of the capital’s religious and tourist landmarks.
The police, facing severe criticism for the security lapse, denied any links between the email, shooting and the car fire. But the email, which threatened attacks during the October 3-14 Games, mentioned that today was the second anniversary of the Batla House “encounter” in which two suspected terrorists were killed.
The gunman, who was riding pillion, sprayed some 10 bullets at a group of six Taiwanese as they prepared to board their bus outside the Jama Masjid’s gate No. 3 following a visit to the historic mosque. One bullet grazed the skull of Zewei Ku and another entered the abdomen of Chiang Kh, both of whom are “stable” in hospital. Officers were unsure about their age but said Zewei was probably 40 and Chiang, who is critical and has had surgery, was 38.
The gunman’s accomplice on the rider’s seat waited patiently as the shooter re-loaded his gun at the crime scene, less than 100 metres from a police station. He then prepared to fire again when the lone eyewitness, rickshaw-puller Mohammed Salim, summoned up the courage to hurl a brick at them, forcing them to scoot. A constable chased the bike in vain.
The police, caught completely unprepared despite intelligence warnings of attacks in the run-up to the Games, had no clue about the attackers’ identities or motives but still ruled out a terror attack.
Yet two hours after the shooting, an unoccupied Maruti 800 parked near the mosque caught fire, triggering panic. Inside it, the police found a pressure cooker and “crude circuitry” — possible material for a crude bomb though no explosives were detected — and sent them for forensic tests. The email arrived around the same time.
Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid, claimed the firing was a terror strike and slammed the “clueless” police.
“Hearing the gunshots, several foreigners (there were about 20 inside the mosque) lay down on the floor. Thank God no casualty was reported,” he said. “The incident will send shock waves through the participating countries (at the Games). I wrote to the home minister early this year for better security around the mosque but they were not bothered.”
Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat said the email’s language did not sound like the Indian Mujahideen’s, and that the Maruti’s contents pointed to a crude attempt at bomb-making. “It may be the handiwork of disgruntled youths,” he said, adding the car fire was not the result of a blast.
The police’s special cell, though, is taking the email very seriously, an officer said. “Several countries participating in the Games expressed concern about the attack on foreigners and asked for investigation updates,” he said.
New Zealand has already said it might pull out if it is dissatisfied with the security.
The police are questioning around 30 people with criminal antecedents, including a man named Bobby, 30, who is believed to be the Maruti’s owner. The home ministry has asked the police to pull up their socks and “expect the unexpected” during the Games.