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Rebel cloud on police show

Guwahati, Nov. 9: Less than a year after seeing off the National Games without a security hiccup, Assam police face the challenge of insulating another showpiece sporting event — this one their own — from homegrown militants and their jihadi collaborators.

Director-general of police R.N. Mathur said today that the 56th National Police Athletics Championship, to be held in Guwahati from November 13 to 17, was under threat from not only homegrown militant outfits but also jihadi groups.

Unveiling plans for the mega event, the police chief said the level of security in and around the city would be similar to the one that was put in place for the 33rd National Games in February. Ulfa had threatened to sabotage that event but refrained from doing so, allowing Assam to put up a good show in front of the visiting contingents.

The police championship will be a large event, too, though Manipur, Mizoram, Gujarat, Chattisgarh, Arunachal Pradesh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Pondicherry, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and the National Security Guards will skip the competition. Some of these teams have cited unavailability of athletes while deciding to give the event a miss.

Mathur named al Qaida as one of the jihadi groups that could try to target the police championship. “There certainly is a threat (from jihadis) to the state and the athletics event. We do have information of jihadi elements operating in the state.”

On whether the police had made any breakthrough in operations against these groups, the DGP said there were positives that he would not like to disclose.

IGP (security) A.P. Rout said militant groups would try to target the championship mainly to make a statement about their existence and to embarrass the region's police forces in front of their counterparts in the rest of the country.

“We are making all necessary anti-sabotage arrangements. Adequate number of police and paramilitary personnel will be deployed in the city and frisking operations will be conducted at several places. The army will continue counter-insurgency raids in its areas of operation,” Rout said. An additional 20 companies of police and paramilitary forces were deployed in the city during the National Games.

The five-day event will be held at the Indira Gandhi Athletics Stadium in Sarusajai. About 1,000 athletes from 28 police forces will participate. The hosts will field a 25-member squad.

“Male athletes will stay at the 4th Assam Police Battalion Headquarters and the women will be accommodated at the new Assam Police Hospital in Panbazar,” IGP (training & armed police) K. Saikia said.

Technical officials, mostly from the Assam Athletics Association and the Athletics Federation of India, will stay in 15 flats in the National Games Village. “Adequate security arrangements will be made for each participant. Officials will get special security cover, based on their ranks,” Rout said.

One of the highlights of the championship will be the introduction of facilities like a videomatrix scoreboard and photo finish for track events.

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