- The Washington Times - Friday, August 11, 2006

NEW DELHI (AP) — Foreign militants, possibly from al Qaeda, may be planning to bomb New Delhi and Bombay, the U.S. Embassy warned yesterday.

An e-mail sent to Americans registered with the embassy said New Delhi, the capital, and Bombay, the country’s financial and entertainment hub, were targeted for attacks around India’s Independence Day celebrations Tuesday.

The embassy warning said the “likely targets include major airports, key central Indian government offices, and major gathering places such as hotels and markets.”

It urged Americans to maintain a low profile and be alert until Wednesday.

The warning prompted India to step up already tight security ahead of Independence Day, a time when militants from the country’s regional separatist movements — from Islamist militants in Kashmir to tribal guerrillas in the northeast — often carry out attacks.

On the approach road to New Delhi’s international airport, guards with assault rifles stopped cars, buses and trucks, checking IDs and searching some vehicles.

Some Indian officials sought to play down the threat.

Home Secretary V.K. Duggal, the top bureaucrat in the Interior Ministry, struck a defensive note, calling the warning “innocuous” and an internal U.S. Embassy matter.

On Thursday, British police said they had thwarted a terrorist plan to blow up U.S.-bound jetliners. The embassy warning did not appear linked to that plot.

In the past year, India has suffered bombings in New Delhi, in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi and in Bombay. Authorities say a Pakistani militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, appears to have been involved in all those attacks. Lashkar is widely believed to have ties to al Qaeda.

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