September 20, 2010 / 9:07 AM / in 8 years

Australia, U.S. warn citizens as India probes shooting

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Australia and the United States issued travel warnings Monday a day after two Taiwanese nationals were shot at near India’s main mosque in the nation’s capital and an explosion in a car at the same place.

Two men wearing helmets and raincoats fired at a tourist bus carrying Taiwanese nationals Sunday in front of the Jama Masjid, a historic mosque, before fleeing into a narrow street.

Two were wounded and minutes after the firing, a car parked near the mosque’s gate went up in flames, which authorities say could have been caused by a crude pressure cooker bomb.

“We have found parts of a pressure cooker inside the car and we are questioning people for leads,” Rajan Bhagat, the Delhi Police spokesman said.

India’s interior ministry officials said the two incidents may be connected and the government has directed the police to step up investigation and tighten security across the city, which will host Commonwealth Games next month.

An email purportedly from the Indian Mujahideen, a home-grown militant group with links to militants in Pakistan, was sent to BBC and some local media after the attack. The statement threatened attacks on the Games.

“We are still not sure whether it was carried out by a sleeper module of the Indian Mujahideen, but we are not taking any chances with the games just weeks away,” said a senior interior ministry official.

Militant groups have threatened to disrupt the sporting event, a showcase for India as it emerges onto the global stage.

Attacks may unnerve athletes already uneasy about reports of poor security and preparations.

The United States and Australia urged their citizens to be careful after the Australian cricket team landed in the city for a cricket series with India.

“Australians in New Delhi should be aware that the Commonwealth Games will be held in a security environment where there is a high risk of terrorism,” the advisory said.

Indian authorities played down Sunday’s shooting, saying it could be the work of local criminals.

“It is a serious case, but we don’t want to cause panic among people before the games,” the interior ministry official said.

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 organizers fighting corruption charges and struggling to get venues ready. The cost of the event has risen more than 17.5 times from the original estimate and is now put at $6 billion.

Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Tomasz Janowski

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