Tourist shootings raise tensions ahead of Commonwealth Games

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Two foreign tourists visiting one of Delhi's most popular and historic sites were shot by gunmen just weeks before the city is to host the Commonwealth Games.

A pair of gunmen riding on a single motorbike fired at a bus of Taiwanese tourists outside the Jama Masjid, wounding one of them in the stomach and grazing the head of another. The gunmen than sped away from the famous Moghul-era mosque, located in the heart of Delhi's old quarter.

Last night, the area around the 17th Century compound had been cordoned off by police and an investigation was under way. There was no claim of responsibility from any militant groups. While the tourists were not lethally injured, the incident has worried officials who are responsible for overseeing the games, which are due to begin on 3 October. Following the Mumbai attacks in November 2008 in which Islamist terrorists killed around 170 people, fears have been expressed as to whether India would be able to provide adequate security at the games for participants and spectators alike.

"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 Sheila Dikshit, the chief minister of Delhi.

The organisers of the games, which will involve athletes from 54 countries, insisted they would be able to provide adequate security and that yesterday morning's incident should not dissuade visitors from coming to the Indian capital. "The shooting incident this morning in Delhi will have no impact on the Commonwealth Games 2010," the organising committee said in a statement.

But India has been the site for a number of attacks by militant groups and many analysts are concerned that the games represent an extremely attractive target to militants. While security has been massively stepped up in some areas, concern remains about the number of soft targets available and the preparations of the authorities responsible.

Taiwanese officials said the two tourists injured yesterday had been taken to hospital and were in a stable condition. One of the tourists had undergone surgery. The two gunmen were both said to be wearing helmets and raincoats. "There was some firing outside gate number three of Jama Masjid," Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat, told Reuters. "We can't say (whether it was a militant attack)."

Many in India's establishment believe the games will be an opportunity to showcase to the world a country that is desperate to present itself as a rising world power. But preparations for the games have been marred by allegations of corruption and a struggle to complete the infrastructure and facilities on schedule. The cost of the event has risen almost 18 times from the original estimate and is now put at $6bn. An epidemic of dengue fever has added to worries of visitors and some in India are concerned that something designed to show a new and vibrant country could become a national embarrassment.

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