Terror war in last phase: PM
US speaks Sept. 11 language
Al Qaida suspect said it all
Massacre that would have been
Fortress capital
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, Dec. 13: 
Guns spat. Grenades exploded with a dull thud. Lawmakers stuck inside thought crackers were going off.

Outside, on the rim of the nation’s seat of power, a battle raged between a group of militants and guards. India was shaken to its foundations by a suicide attack on the red-and-buff sandstone edifice where freedom came at midnight.

A handful of militants stormed the gates of Parliament, turning the precincts into a battlefield for close to an hour.

Four militants — said to be carrying AK-47s and grenades — were killed in the gunbattle with the guards and one was blown off by explosives strapped around his body. There might have been a sixth militant who escaped. Six guards and a gardener died in the exchange of fire and at least 14 were injured.

First sounds of gunfire around 11.45 am tore through the nation’s sense of security and as news spread of the audacious attack on the heart of the world’s largest democracy, the chilling realisation dawned that nothing is safe from terrorist attacks.

Three hundred members of Parliament were inside the building as gunshots reverberated and explosives went off. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Vice-President Krishan Kant escaped being caught in the attack as in the normal course both might have been at the spot of the strikes.

Vajpayee was to come to the Rajya Sabha, which is entered through Gate No. 11, but did not because Parliament was adjourned. Kant, Rajya Sabha chairman, was about to leave through the same gate, but had delayed his departure. One of the cars in his convoy was hit by the militants’ white Ambassador.

In a televised address to the nation, Vajpayee said the battle against terrorism had entered its last phase and would be fought in a decisive manner. “For the past two decades, we have been fighting terrorism, now the battle has reached its final phase.”

After a similar suicide attack on the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly on October 1, Delhi had issued warnings of taking the fight against terrorism into Pakistan, citing Washington’s decision to launch a war in Afghanistan.

Home minister L.K. Advani, responsible for internal security, said after an emergency meeting of the Cabinet committee on security: “We will liquidate the terrorists and their sponsors whoever they are, wherever they are.” Echoes of President George W. Bush there.

Mumbai police said they had warned the home ministry about a possible attack on Parliament after the arrest of a suspected al Qaida operative. Advani acknowledged receiving a warning but said there was no specific information.

Defence minister George Fernandes, who will be relieved to see the focus of Opposition attack shifting from him, promised a “hard-hitting response”.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

President Pervez Musharraf condemned the attack in a message to Vajpayee. “I was shocked to learn about the attack by armed intruders on the Indian Parliament building.”

The militants’ car entered the complex with red light flashing atop and bearing a home ministry sticker, later described as fake. Laden with explosives, the vehicle was being sanitised by bomb disposal squad experts. The car stopped outside gate No. 11 and the militants jumped out, opening fire.

A meeting convened by the Speaker decided that Parliament would meet tomorrow as scheduled. Later, a meeting will be held to decide if the session should continue until December 21. The Cabinet is also slated to meet tomorrow.


Washington, Dec. 13: 
The US today went well beyond any previous condemnations of terrorist attacks against India when state department spokesman Richard Boucher said “those responsible (for the attack on Parliament) should be identified and quickly brought to justice”.

Previous American statements on incidents of terror were confined to criticism of such acts. There was speculation here following today’s statement whether the US would approve of or at least condone any retaliation by India against the perpetrators or sponsors of terrorism.

Indians outside the government have criticised American double standards on India when the US has gone half way round the world to Afghanistan to retaliate against the September 11 attacks.

President George W. Bush spoke to Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, condemning terrorism.

Boucher said: “This brutal assault on the heart of Indian democracy is an attack on all democracies.”

Secretary of state Colin Powell, who spoke to foreign minister Jaswant Singh, said the US was determined “to cooperate with India in its fight against terrorism”.


Mumbai, Dec. 13: 
Mohammed Afroz told all — even the planned attack on Parliament. The suspected al Qaida operative, held in a Mumbai jail, was not taken seriously.

“If the Union home ministry had taken the report we had sent on the basis of the confession Afroz made, today’s terrorist attack might have been averted,” police commissioner M.N. Singh said.

Afroz, 25, was arrested in a Navi Mumbai hotel on October 2, initially on charges of extortion and robbery. A few days later, he was booked on charges of conspiring and waging war against the country.

The hotel-owner had tipped off the police, deeply suspicious of the way he had been wining and dining at the hotel.

To Navi Mumbai police, it was just another case of presumed extortion or robbery since those who commit such crimes often fritter away their ill-gotton money on food and drinks and sometimes end up in jail. “We had not taken it seriously at all in the beginning,” a senior officer said.

Things changed when they went through the man’s suitcase and stumbled into his passport, issued in Mumbai. It logged in detail his all visits to Australia, the US and UK in the last four years. “He hardly looked so rich as to visit several foreign countries and that, too, countries like the US and UK. That raised police’s suspicion,” said deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal, who holds home portfolio.

Suspicion deepened when they began to question Afroz. He was handed over to Mumbai police almost immediately.

Then, Afroz, questioned by the police commissioner himself, made the startling confession: he is an al Qaida operative, the police said.

Afroz is scheduled to appear before a court tomorrow, where the police expect him to make a legal confession. The police said Afroz disclosed during questioning that he belonged to one of four al Qaida suicide missions formed for the September 11 attacks in the US, Rolto Towers in Australia and the British and Indian Parliament buildings.

Afroz said he had trained as a pilot in Australia, a fact confirmed by Australia’s attorney-general Daryl Williams. He was to have hijacked a jetliner and crashed it into the British Parliament building on September 11. Bhujbal said the “highly classified” information had been immediately passed on to the Union home ministry.

Soon afterwards, home minister L.K. Advani made a statement that al Qaida had a plan to attack Parliament. The police officers were, however, baffled why security was not tightened at the Parliament building.

Born to a tailor from Hyderabad, who had moved to Mumbai four decades ago, and a Gujrati mother, Afroz studied science at Somaiya college in north-east Mumbai before dropping out and leaving for Australia in 1997 to train as a pilot, which his family members said was his childhood dream.

“My brother has always wanted to be a pilot and trained first at Juhu flying club, before deciding to go to Australia to train as a jetliner pilot,” brother Farooq said.

He said their father had borrowed money to send Afroz to Australia. “We have an uncle in London, who is a businessman. He also funded his training in Australia.”

The police questioned the family’s version, saying it was not so rich as to train Afroz as a pilot in Australia. “It makes no sense when the man himself owned up to what he was up to,” a senior officer said.

The police said Afroz had checked in at London airport on September 11 for two flights bound for Manchester along with four others. They had planned to hijack the planes and crash them into Parliament and the tower bridge. But when the news of the US attacks came through they had panicked and fled.

He arrived in New Delhi the next day and immediately took off for Goa to “spend a few quiet days”.

He arrived in Mumbai in the last week of September mainly to “see” his girlfriend, but ended up in police hands.


New Delhi, Dec. 13: 
Had the assassins entered from Gate No. 11 or managed to avoid the armed guards of Vice-President Krishan Kant, there would have been a large-scale massacre.

The distance from the gate to the Upper House can be covered in about 15 seconds and none of the watch-and-ward guards manning Parliament security are armed.

The watch-and-ward staff is selected by Parliament’s recruitment cell and given lessons in judo and karate. They are also given some training in handling firearms but once posted inside, are equipped with just a wireless set and the authority to demand passes.

Central Reserve Police Force and Delhi Police personnel are entrusted with the task of screening through metal detectors. In addition, there are numerous plainclothes personnel from intelligence agencies, but they are also barred from carrying firearms.

Thus, except for Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the leader of Opposition, Sonia Gandhi, all politicians, starting with home minister L.K. Advani to CPM MP Somnath Chatterjee, were without armed escorts. The elite National Security Guards and Delhi Police personnel are permitted up to Gate No. 1. Once the VIP goes inside, they go back to the parking lot.

There have been several proposals for deploying armed personnel inside Parliament but every time, the move has been shelved. A section of security experts say it is a greater risk because a guard could go berserk. There are others who point at former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination by her own security guards.

Security experts said there were glaring loopholes in the existing set-up in and around Parliament and the House was too ill-equipped to deal with attacks by suicide squads.

For instance, any car (stolen or otherwise) with a “P” sticker can reach the sensitive security zone like the main entrance of Parliament without any scrutiny. Also, security personnel seldom check the antecedents of those inside the car.

There have been numerous instances when car stickers were liberally distributed even to unauthorised persons. Last week, someone went around the parking lot to discover that dozens of cars parked inside had parking stickers belonging to the Monsoon Session.


New Delhi, Dec. 13: 
Within hours of the terrorist strike, the capital was turned into a virtual fortress with the army called out and police and paramilitary forces swarming around Raisina Hill and Parliament.

The army has been deployed at the residences of Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee and leader of Opposition Sonia Gandhi. Home minister L.K. Advani’s house is also being guarded.

Officials said the army had not taken over from the Special Protection Force, which guards Vajpayee and Sonia. Snipers have taken position on the roofs of buildings around the Parliament complex and the PMO.

Within 15 minutes of the attack, all government buildings including North and South blocks, Shastri Bhavan, Nirman Bhavan and the defence ministry offices were sealed off.

Over 40-45,000 police and paramilitary personnel have fanned out across the capital and its suburbs to put in place a thick security cordon. Barricades have been erected and vigilance stepped up along Delhi’s borders to check vehicles coming in and out of the capital.

The airport, railway station, stock exchange and financial institutions are being provided extra security.

Police and other security agencies picked up five people for questioning immediately after the shootout, reports PTI.

An armed person was picked up from the Nand Nagri area and another from the south-west. Three were picked from east and north Delhi, sources said. But none was placed under arrest till late this evening.




Maximum:26.4°C (-1)
Minimum:15.7°C (+2)



Relative humidity

Maximum: 96%,

Sunrise: 6.13 am

Sunset: 4.49 pm


Mainly clear sky. Possibility of morning fog. Minimum temperature likely to be around 16°C

Maintained by Web Development Company