Shoot-out that left two dead thwarted fresh terror attack, claim Indian police

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The Independent Online

India's security forces, under pressure to produce results after the Bombay bombings a week ago, claimed at the weekend to have foiled a terrorist plot and killed a senior militant leader.

India's security forces, under pressure to produce results after the Bombay bombings a week ago, claimed at the weekend to have foiled a terrorist plot and killed a senior militant leader.

Delhi police said they had averted a major attack by killing two armed Muslims from Jaish-e-Mohammed, one of the militant groups fighting Indian forces Kashmir, in a gun battle in a park on Saturday night. Officials said the men had been waiting to pick up a consignment of arms, and that they opened fire on the police.

Niraj Kumar, Delhi police's joint commissioner, said: "The exact target would have been disclosed to them by Jaish headquarters a short time before the actual strike. It would have been something spectacular like VVIPs [very, very important persons], symbols of national importance like the India Gate and the Red Fort, something like that."

The police claims will be treated with scepticism by some, as Indian police have a reputation for staging shoot-outs for public consumption at times of crisis. The capital's police also said that they intercepted a fruit truck carrying hand grenades, shells and a grenade launcher on Saturday. Three men were arrested. A few hours earlier, police said they found a bag containing 46lb of explosiveson a platform of Delhi's main railway station.

Television news programmes were filled with images of a gunfight in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir on Saturday. At the end of the 10-hour battle, a spokesman for India's Border Security Force said troops had killed Ghazi Baba, the head of Jaish-e-Mohammed in India.

If true - and the claim was disputed - Indian security forces will see the killing as an important breakthrough.

They suspect Baba of having masterminded an attack in Delhi in December 2001. That assault laid the ground for a stand-off between India and Pakistan last summer in which both sides massed their armies along their disputed borders.

Delhi has been on a high security alert since last Monday, when 52 people were killed by two bombs in what is now known as Bombay's Black Monday, one of them at the tourist landmark the Gateway of India. The other bomb detonated at Zaveri Bazaar in south Bombay, close to a Hindu temple and within a popular market crammed with gold and jewellery stalls.

India's jittery mood has been intensified by another wave of violence in Jammu and Kashmir, where tens of thousands of people have died in the past 14 years.

Yesterday, India and Pakistan were trading fire across the disputed state, reportedly leaving five people dead including a 15-year-old girl.

She was hit by shrapnel from an Indian artillery shell that landed near her home in Nakyal, about 160 miles south of Muzaffarabad, the capital of the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir, according to Raja Ghulam Sarwar, a police superintendent.

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