IS threat reaches India before Hollande visit


Sat, Jan 23, 2016 - Page 6

India is taking no chances ahead of French President Francois Hollande’s three-day visit tomorrow as threats grow from militant groups including the Islamic State (IS).

Police arrested four students in their early 20s this week who planned to attack both a Hindu pilgrimage site and Delhi shopping malls that are frequented by foreigners and wealthy Indians, according to Arvind Deep, a police official in the capital.

The men were in touch with handlers in Iraq and Syria, the Times of India reported, citing unidentified sources.

The threat comes as IS-linked militants become active in Asia following a high-profile attack in Paris last year. After gun and bomb attacks in Jakarta last week killed four civilians, Malaysian police detained four people with suspected links to the IS and Singapore deported 26 Bangladeshis it accused of supporting violent extremism.

Hollande is to join Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at India’s annual Republic Day parade on Tuesday, an honor given to US President Barack Obama a year ago.

The French leader has vowed to fight the IS “as long as necessary” after terrorists killed 130 people in and around Paris.

France has been conducting airstrikes against the group in Syria and Iraq.

Meanwhile, India has barely registered among the IS’ ranks of 30,000 foreign fighters, despite its 172 million-strong Muslim minority population — the third-largest in the world. This is even as it faces constant attacks from Pakistan-based extremist groups, including one earlier this month at a northern Indian air base killed 13 people.

About 8,000 police officers and 12,000 paramilitary personnel will be deployed in the capital, along with more than 200 closed-circuit television cameras, snipers atop buildings and sniffer dogs, according to a Delhi police spokesman.

Airlines also requested passengers to arrive earlier for flights as airports tighten security.

A mock drill was conducted by the Indian National Security Guards, the country’s elite anti-terrorism force, at a busy market frequented by foreigners in the capital.

Last week, the state secretariat in Goa received a postcard purportedly signed by the IS threatening to kill Modi and Indian Minister of Defense Manohar Parrikar, PTI reported.

The French consulate in Bangalore on Jan. 11 received a three-line letter in broken English warning Hollande against visiting India, Daily News & Analysis reported.