NEW DELHI: In incidents apparently intended to cause terror ahead of Commonwealth Games, two unidentified motorcycle-borne attackers on Sunday shot and injured two Taiwanese nationals outside the Jama Masjid here which was followed by a crude pressure cooker bomb blast in a car in the same area.
Delhi police appeared to be ruling out the role of any organised terror group but intelligence experts said it could be a handiwork of outlawed Indian Mujahideen, which was behind a series of blasts in several cities, including Delhi and Ahmedabad.
The Indian Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the attack in an e-mail sent to news organisations and threatened terror strikes during the Games. The e-mail sent by the Indian Mujahideen said, "The attack is a tribute to Atif Amin and Mohammed Sajid." Amin and Sajid were IM operatives killed by the police in the Batla House encounter soon after the Delhi serial blasts of September 2008.
A red alert was sounded across the capital after the incident in which the two bikers, wearing raincoats and helmets, fired 7-8 rounds on the stationary vehicle adjacent to Gate No 3 of the mosque and 100 metres away from the house of Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, Syed Ahmed Bukhari at 11.10 a.m.
Police have detained one person for questioning in connection with the case. The two injured – Cesewein (27) and Cinglo (28) – were rushed to the nearby government Lok Nayak Jaiprakash Narayan Hospital, a senior police official said.
Cesewein had a miraculous escape as the bullet grazed his head while Cinglo was hit in right abdomen. The injured were part of a five-member group of tourists who work with a television channel in Taiwan and were in the capital since Saturday. They were to leave for Jaipur on Tuesday and then visit Agra and return to the capital on September 27 to take a flight back to Taiwan.
Mr Karnal Singh, Joint Commissioner (Northern Range), told reporters 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. It appears to be done to create panic," he said. "A red alert has been sounded and we are conducting checks at various points. We are confident of nabbing the culprits soon," he said. Nearly two hours after the firing incident, a car went up in flames when a "crudely-circuited" pressure cooker bomb exploded about 50 metres away from the spot where the firing incident took place. Investigators suspect the involvement of a "group of disgruntled youth or local criminals" who wanted to create a scare in the area.
Constable Mr Pramod, who was manning Gate No 3, tried to give a chase to the attackers but they fled on their motorcycle. A rickshaw-puller also tried to give a chase and he even threw a brick at them in a bid to foil their escape. The mini-bus also had one of its windows broken and a bullet pierced into its body. Asked whether it is a security scare ahead of the October 3-14 Games, Delhi Chief Minister, Ms Sheila Dikshit said, "An incident like this is something worrying but nothing to panic about." Union Urban Development Minister, Mr S Jaipal Reddy said the incident would not have an impact on the Games.
"Lots of security measures have already been taken. But wherever there is an inadequacy about it, that hole has to be plugged," the Chief Minister said. Hours after the incident, Home Minister, Mr P Chidambaram visited the LNJP Hospital, where the two injured Taiwanese are admitted. He enquired about their health conditions and also talked to senior officials and medical professionals present there.
The modus operandi in the firing carries the signature of Indian Mujaheedin, Home Ministry sources said. Sources in security agencies said the incident could be an attempt to spread scare ahead of the Games. They said terror angle cannot be ruled out. The Union Home Ministry is also closely monitoring the investigations into the shooting incident and has sought a report from the Delhi police. Asked if the security agencies have been able to find out the motive behind the incident, senior Home Ministry officials said it was too early to make an assessment and that the investigations were underway. Police said phone calls in the area are being scanned and armed personnel have been deployed in the locality.
However, Delhi police does not suspect the role of any organised terror group behind the incidents but suspect the involvement of disgruntled youths or a gang of local criminals. The city police is also not giving much credence to the email sent to media houses purportedly by outlawed Indian Mujahideen as "its content and timing were not matching" with the incidents. There were "no specific target or specific reasons" for the attacks and they do not find any reason to believe that an organised terror outfit was behind the incidents which left two Taiwanese nationals injured, Delhi police spokesperson, Mr Rajan Bhagat said.
Meanwhile, the United States on Sunday issued a security advisory for its citizens in India asking them to "maintain a heightened situational awareness" following the shooting near the historic Jama Masjid. "US citizens are urged to always practice good security, maintain a heightened situational awareness and a low profile. US citizens are advised to monitor local news reports and consider the level of security present when visiting public places, including religious sites," said the advisory posted on the US embassy website. Mumbai police on Sunday went on high alert in the wake of shooting in the national capital as well as the ongoing 11-day Ganeshotsava festival in the city, officials said. Besides increasing vigilance and security checks at all the Ganesh mandals across the city, police have also turned their attention to the 200-plus mosques and mausoleums, including Haji Ali dargah and Mahim dargah, and others dotting the metropolis. Five new speedboats were added to the fleet of the Mumbai police for sea patrolling on Sunday by the Maharashtra government. The five boats are a part of the 29 speedboats purchased by the state government on a budget of ` 150 crore.