NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Gunmen on motorbikes shot at a tourist bus near the main mosque in the Indian capital on Sunday, wounding two Taiwanese visitors, weeks before the city hosts the Commonwealth Games.
Some militant groups have threatened to disrupt the Games, a showcase for India as it emerges onto the global economic and diplomatic stage. Attacks may unnerve athletes already uneasy about reports of poor security and preparations.
“The two men were wearing helmets and raincoats. They fired indiscriminately at a tourist bus before escaping,” K. Singh, a senior police officer in Delhi, told Reuters.
Six Taiwanese nationals were boarding the bus on a visit to Jama Masjid when the shooting happened, the vehicle’s driver said. The historic mosque in the old, congested part of the capital is one of Delhi’s most popular tourist attractions.
Police cordoned off the area.
An email purportedly from the Indian Mujahideen, a homegrown militant group with links to militants in Pakistan, was sent to the BBC just after the attack. The statement threatened attacks on the Games and criticized India for oppression in Kashmir.
“We know preparations for the games are at its peak. Be aware we too are preparing in full swing for a great surprise,” said the email, published on the BBC Hindi service website.
Security has been tightened in the capital before the Games, with authorities mindful of Islamist militant attacks in Indian cities over recent years in which dozens have been killed.
Police would not confirm whether militants were behind the latest attack. In 2006, at least seven people were injured when two blasts rocked the same area.
Doctors said the condition of the two wounded foreigners was stable and one of them was undergoing surgery.
Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokesman James Chang said one of the tourists had suffered a grazed head and the other was wounded in the abdomen. Neither wound was life-threatening.
“There was some firing outside gate number 3 of Jama Masjid,” Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said. “We can’t say (whether it was a militant attack).”
There have been militant attacks in India this year. In February, an explosion ripped through a restaurant in the western city of Pune, killing 17 people. The government blamed that attack on Indian Mujahideen.
The Commonwealth Games, an event organized by the 54-member organization of mainly former British colonies and held every four years, begin on October 3.
But the Games in India threaten to become an embarrassment with the organizers fighting corruption charges and struggling to get venues ready on time. The cost of the event has risen more than 17.5 times from the original estimate and is now put at $6 billion.
“All that I can appeal to everybody is, please do not panic. An incident like this is something worrying but nothing to panic about,” said Shiela Dikshit, Delhi chief minister.
The Commonwealth Games organizers said the Games would go ahead as planned in a “safe and secure environment.”
India remains jittery about a perceived threat of Islamist attacks from Pakistani territory. It accuses its neighbor of failing to act against militant groups.
Peace talks between long-time rivals India and Pakistan were halted after the 2008 Mumbai attacks by Pakistani-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba that killed 166 people.
Writing by Alistair Scrutton; Additonal reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj in New Delhi and Ralph Jennings in Taipei; Editing by Alex Richardson and Janet Lawrence
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