India on alert ahead of I-Day

New Delhi, August 13:

Thousands of security personnel patrolled New Delhi streets today as India went on high alert ahead of celebrations early next week marking the 58th anniversary of independence from Britain. The Red Fort, a 17th-century Mughal-built complex where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will deliver his second Independence Day address on Monday, was sealed off as commandos carried out mock drills against possible attacks. Police in plain clothes and snipers were deployed on high rises near the fort complex with all houses and other buildings within a three-km radius of the Red Fort “sanitised” over the weekend, a police spokesman said, referring to police checks of the premises.

The city’s borders with neighbouring states would be sealed tomorrow, the police spokesman said. The security measures came in the wake of intelligence reports that several militant outfits — the pan-Islamic militant groups Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba and Sikh insurgents — could target the celebrations, news reports, quoting unidentified home ministry officials, said. Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba were blamed for a December 2001 attack on the Indian parliament in New Delhi that nearly set off a war with rival Pakistan.

Besides these two, a Sikh group called Babbar Khalsa International, blamed for bomb attacks on two cinema theatres in New Delhi in May that killed one and wounded 49, could also stage attacks on or before Independence Day, a report in the Hindustan Times said. In Kashmir, meanwhile, search operations were intensified ahead of Independence day, observed as “black day” by Islamic rebels and separatists. “We’ve intensified search operations to keep militants at bay,” a paramilitary officer in Srinagar told AFP, asking not to be named.

In Srinagar, surveillance cameras are being used for the first time to fine-tune the security set-up. The protective measures — three days ahead of the event on Monday — also include drop gates and closure of all roads leading to the Bakshi Stadium where the main function will be held here on Monday. Tight security was also imposed in the revolt-hit northeast. Assam imposed a maximum security alert this week after a string of blasts blamed on rebels that killed four people and wrecked gas pipelines.

Militants kill five

JAMMU: Suspected militants killed five people at the home of a village defence committee member in Jammu and Kashmir, reports reaching here on Saturday said. The incident occurred in Mahore area of Udhampur district yesterday night. Police said the militants struck at the home of Sawan Lal, a village defence committee member, in Chajroo village, firing indiscriminately and killing the five people on the spot. Nine people were injured. — AP