Wed, Aug 16, 2006 - Page 4 News List

India vows to `smash' militants

INDIA-PENDENCE DAY Speaking from a bullet-proof enclosure, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh struck a defiant tone as he called for unity

AFP , NEW DELHI

An Indian military police officer drives through a wall of florescent light tubes during Independence Day celebrations in Bangalore yesterday. India was on high alert as it celebrated 59 years of Independence amid threats of terrorist attacks that the prime minister said undermined a two-and-half year peace process with Pakistan.

PHOTO: AP

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh vowed yesterday to "neutralize and smash" militants and urged Pakistan to crack down on cross-border terrorism as India celebrated Independence Day on high alert against Islamic rebels.

"Terrorists want to undermine our growing economic strength, destroy our unity and provoke communal incidents," Singh told the nation, just over a month after Mumbai train bombings blamed on Muslim militants killed 183.

"We cannot allow this to happen ... We will not allow the secular fabric of our country to be broken [and] we will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that terrorist elements in India are neutralized and smashed," he said from a bulletproof enclosure at the Mughal-built Red Fort in the Indian capital.

"Let those who want to hurt us by inflicting a thousand cuts remember -- no one can break our will ... No one can make India kneel," he said.

On Friday the US embassy in New Delhi said militants, possibly al-Qaeda, may be planning a series of blasts around Independence Day. India dismissed the warning as "innocuous" but ratcheted up security even further.

Some 10,000 security personnel yesterday guarded the Red Fort while another 90,000 kept a vigil across Delhi, which was guarded during Singh's address by military helicopters.

Troops also occupied streets in Kashmir, where the smothering security and a strike called by Muslim separatists kept most people indoors. One Indian soldier was injured in a landmine ambush in the Himalayan state's Poonch district, officials said.

Anti-insurgency troopers were out in strength in several northeastern states where ethnic guerrillas have called a boycott of the freedom celebrations. Police and soldiers guarded key installations in Mumbai.

India blames Islamist rebels fighting its rule in Kashmir for the train blasts. Singh after the July 11 carnage said the attackers had support from "across the border" -- a reference to Pakistan.

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