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New Delhi Police Kill 2 Terrorist Suspects

Authorities say men probably were planning attack on mall filled with holiday shoppers.

November 04, 2002|From Times Wire Services

NEW DELHI — Police killed two suspected Islamic militants in a shootout Sunday at a crowded shopping mall in India's capital, and authorities said the men had probably been planning a terrorist attack.

The shootout came during the country's busiest shopping weekend of the year as Hindus prepared to celebrate Diwali, or the Festival of Lights.

The attackers were "Pakistanis, according to information available now," said Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani, adding that the suspects had intended to provoke religious clashes.

Earlier, police said they had been tipped off that militants demanding independence for the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir would target shopping malls or crowded areas during Diwali.

Police said the two men, who were killed in the underground parking lot of the mall, Ansal Plaza, were suspected members of the Pakistani-based Lashkar-e-Taiba group. India blamed that group and another organization for an attack on its Parliament building in December.

Police said they recovered two Chinese-made pistols, an AK-56 rifle and spare ammunition clips from the men.

Had the men carried out an attack, the repercussions could have been grave. The incident occurred in a wealthy area of New Delhi at the most joyful time of year, a long holiday weekend filled with parties, gift-giving and fireworks displays. Diwali marks the victory of Rama, the most revered Hindu deity, over the demon king Ravana.

"They hit the poshest mall in Delhi," a Western diplomat said. "Anyone doing any last-minute shopping would be there. Just think of the comparison -- an attack on a major shopping mall in the U.S. or Europe on Christmas Eve. It could have been disastrous. It's a worrying development."

Security officials say there are concerns that militants might try to carry out headline-grabbing attacks to focus attention on the disputed Kashmir region.

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