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India guarantees “full protection” in face of terror threats to sports events

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By Nick Harris

17 February 2010

The Indian government today reacted bullishly to terrorist threats against the forthcoming hockey World Cup, the 2010 IPL season and the Commonwealth Games by promising to provide “full protection” to every player, coach and official involved. In addition, the Delhi police have claimed that “foolproof” security arrangements are in place.

India suffered its latest terrorist attack on Saturday when a bakery in Pune was bombed. The death toll, which includes two foreigners, rose to 11 today after a student from Delhi died from injuries sustained in the blast. Another 60 people were injured. A hitherto unknown group of Islamist militants, Laskhar-e-Taiba Al Alami, has claimed responsibility but the perpetrators have yet to be confirmed.

In the wake of the attack, threats were made against sporting events by another terrorist commander, Ilyas Kashmiri, whose 313 Brigade has reported operational links to al Qaeda. In a statement to Asia Times Online early this week, Kashmiri said: “We warn the international community to play its role in getting the Kashmiris their right to self-determination and preventing India from committing brutalities in IHK, especially in Badipuar, raping the women and behaving inhumanly with Muslim prisoners.

“We warn the international community not to send their people to the 2010 Hockey World Cup, the Indian Premier League and Commonwealth Games – to be held in New Delhi later this year. Nor should their people visit India – if they do, they will be responsible for the consequences.”

India is due to stage the hockey World Cup from 28 February to 13 March. The 2010 Indian Premier League season is due to run from 12 March to 25 April. The Commonwealth Games are due to be staged in Delhi from 3 to 14 October.

The England Hockey Board said today: “The credibility of the reported threats is still being assessed and at present plans for the team’s participation in the World Cup remain unchanged.”

Australia also plan to attend, as planned, unless otherwise advised by their government. The New Zealand team also intend to attend, although they have postponed their departure “until further notice”.

India’s Home Minister, P. Chidambaram, has today responded to Kashmiri’s threats by saying: “We cannot be deterred and are not deterred by what Ilyas Kashmiri says. The government of India will provide full protection to every player, every coach, [and] every official who participates in the forthcoming hockey, cricket and the Commonwealth Games. Ilyas Kashmiri cannot dictate our course of action.”

A Delhi police spokesman said of the hockey event: “We are making foolproof arrangements. We are not leaving anything to chance.”

The IPL will go ahead as planned, with IPL commissioner Lalit Modi telling the eight franchises in a letter: “If, in a worst case, a certain venue/city/state turns out to be a problem, we have back-up plans to shift all matches to alternative states and venues.

“Our objective remains to work things out with one and all and we will work to ensure we protect all stakeholders. Like last year when within 23 days we were able to move continents, this time we have planned for all and every eventuality as a back-up. The show will go on.”

On his Twitter feed yesterday, referring to a dispute about the location of the Deccan Chargers’ games for 2010, which were seen to be vulnerable, Modi said: “Reports that DC will not play or xyz may not – please ignore such news. All IPL teams will participate. You have my assurance on that.”

Commonwealth Games teams from around the world are generally operating a “watching brief” on the situation, in consultation with their embassies in India and with security experts.

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