Terror alert for Delhi, Kashmir
NEW DELHI, India -- Police and security agencies are on heightened alert for militant attacks in New Delhi on or around India's Independence Day, and in the disputed region of Kashmir in the lead up to local elections, Indian media report.
With Independence Day on August 15 looming, The Press Trust of India reported that intelligence agencies had alerted Delhi authorities to the threat, saying that suspected militants were attempting to sneak into the capital from neighboring areas of the state of Uttar Pradesh.
Quoting police sources, the report said that this was a changed strategy, with militants aiming to set up bases near New Delhi, striking and then returning back to the base.
"Instead of setting up bases in Delhi and risk detection, the terrorists are now establishing bases at certain places near the capital, which allows them to reach here faster, carry out an act and go back," the unnamed sources were quoted as saying.
Meerut, Saharanpur, Moradabad and Aligarh were cities and towns identified by the sources as bases for the militants.
There, Islamic extremist groups like Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e Taiba and Jaish-e Mohammad, were exploiting religious sympathies of people in the area to "manage hiding places," the sources said in the report.
The groups were also encouraging local youths from Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh to join their cause, the sources added.
The report said that some of the youths had been sent to Kashmir for militant training.
A bloody separatist revolt in Indian-controlled Kashmir has claimed the lives of at least 25,000 people since 1989.
Kashmir election violence warning
India blames Pakistan for encouraging separatist militancy and has called on Islamabad to curb what New Delhi calls "cross-border terrorism." Pakistan denies the charge, but has vowed to crack down on separatist insurgency.
Since that commitment from Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, New Delhi says the number of incursions has reduced, but still continue.
However, local media on Sunday reported that violence in the disputed region could increase ahead of the two-phased state-legislative elections to be held in Jammu-Kashmir during September and October.
Following last week's announcement of the poll schedule, security agencies stumbled on a plan to target one politician every day in a bid to sabotage the elections, the Press Trust of India reported.
Unnamed official sources told the PTI that several militant groups had directed their members to carry out attacks on offices of various political parties as well as discourage anyone from voting.
Officials say elaborate security measures will be made to ensure there is no disruption to the polling.
The State Assembly elections, which many Kashmiri separatist leaders oppose and have claimed will be rigged by the federal government, could help ease tensions between India and Pakistan, both of whom claim the Himalayan province.
New Delhi hopes that a good voter turnout and peaceful and fair process will ease tensions and curb human rights abuses in the northern state, as well as appease estranged Kashmiri political parties and bring them back into the federal fold.
Voter turnout in elections in Kashmir has been poor in the past due to fear of reprisals by Islamic militants.
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