Gunmen shoot, injure two tourists in India; manhunt is under way

By Emily Wax
Sunday, September 19, 2010; 1:13 PM

NEW DELHI - Two gunmen shot and injured two tourists as they boarded a tourist bus on Sunday morning while they were visiting a historic mosque in the heart of the capital

The gunmen escaped on motorcycles through one of the most congested parts of the city. Shiela Dikshit, the Delhi chief minister, called for calm.

"All that I can appeal to everybody is, please do not panic. An incident like this is something worrying but nothing to panic about," Dikshit told reporters.

The shooting put the city on high alert just two weeks before it hosts the Commonwealth Games. Several terrorist groups have threatened to disrupt the games, a prestigious $6 billion event that India hopes will help build its profile as an economic and diplomatic power on the global stage. The games are expected to draw thousands of athletes from across the world.

The shooting occurred around 11:30 a.m. outside the Jama Masjid, a popular 17th-century landmark in Old Delhi, a lively market area with a labyrinth of pathways. The gunmen were on bikes and fired multiple rounds at a tourist van. Police said one tourist was shot in the stomach; another was grazed on the head.

Rajan Bhagat, a police spokesman in New Delhi said that a large manhunt is under way for the gunmen. "They seem to have randomly shot ... perhaps seven rounds, and injured two tourists as they were getting onto the bus. [The victims] are in the hospital and doing well with their treatment."

The tourists were from Taiwan and were in stable condition, police said.

Security has been an ongoing issue in India, especially since the November 2008 attacks on Mumbai in which terrorists from Pakistan used assault rifles and grenades to launch a rampage in the city's commercial district, targeting three luxury hotels, a train station and other sites. In a siege that lasted three days, the terrorists took dozens of hostages and killed nearly 200 people; nearly 300 were wounded.

Safety measures have been stepped up for the Commonwealth Games, but concerns remain in this teeming city of more than 14 million.

An e-mail from the Indian Mujahideen, a homegrown militant group with links to militants in Pakistan, was sent to the BBC Hindi service just after the shooting.

The statement threatened attacks on the games. It also criticized India for its occupation of the disputed region of Kashmir, where protests against Indian rule have left more than 90 people dead in the last three months.

"We know preparations for the games are at its peak. Be aware we too are preparing in full swing for a great surprise," said the e-mail, published on the BBC Hindi service Web site.

Police said they were investigating the e-mail, but were not sure if it was credible.

The Commonwealth Games, organized by the 54-member group of mainly former British colonies, is held every four years. They begin on Oct. 3, and the city has been scrambling to improve facilities and security.

Games organizers said the events would go ahead as planned in a "safe and secure environment."

Indian cities remain on edge about perceived threats of attacks from Pakistani militants. The nation has accused Pakistan of failing to crack down on terrorist groups.

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