Unknown group threatens New Year attacks in Indian city

High-tech businesses, the Indian space agency and nuclear facilities today stepped up security across southern India following threats to target a top politician and launch suicide attacks against New Year’s revellers in India’s technology hub.

Police set up barricades, patrolled streets and searched cars today in Bangalore, trying to thwart possible bombings and find those behind an attack two days earlier on a science institute that killed a retired professor, said the police chief of the southern state of Karnataka state, BS Sial.

A letter from a previously unknown militant group was faxed to several newspapers late yesterday threatening a series of suicide bombings in Bangalore, the state’s capital, he said.

Police were investigating a link between the shooting and the suicide bomb threats, but Sial said they had not yet established a connection.

A handful of militant groups ranging from Kashmiri separatists to communist guerrillas are currently battling India’s government, and Sial said police were trying to find out if any were behind either the shooting or the threats.

The letter was signed by Moin-ud-Din of the previously unknown Al-Jehadi group, he said.

“It will be the most co-ordinated attack the country has ever seen,” Sial quoted the letter, written in English, as saying.

Six attackers will trigger explosions, including “two human bombs to target the state chief minister,” the letter reportedly said.

Bangalore is home to about 1,500 software companies, including offices of at least 75 multinational corporations from the United States, Europe and Japan. But there were no indications that foreigners were specific targets.

India’s top space and atomic facilities are also scattered across southern India, further heightening security concerns.

“An alert has been sounded at all the establishments engaged in scientific, defence and nuclear activities” and with high-tech businesses, Home Secretary VK Duggal said today.

Private companies also stepped up security to thwart any terrorist attacks.

A senior official with Infosys Technologies, NR Narayan Murthy, said the company “has its own security and after the incident we have taken precautions.” He did not elaborate.

Infosys, a Bangalore-based software giant, earns more than half of its revenue from exports to the United States.

But the president of India’s National Association of Software and Services Companies, Kiran Karnik, said “terror attacks won’t have an adverse impact on the industry. Such attacks have occurred in other cities without negative outcomes for industry.”

Analysts say the shooting and threats were meant to undermine India’s fast-growing economy and harm its ability to keep attracting billions of dollars in foreign investment.

“Attacks are made so that our capacity for development and attracting investment are hurt,” said Ajai Sahni, executive director of the Institute of Conflict Management in New Delhi. “The target is economic.”

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