Delhi Games rocked by shooting


NEW DELHI, September 20- Indian police probed links on Monday between a shooting at a tourist bus in New Delhi and a small explosion in a car nearby, as authorities sought to contain fear ahead of the Commonwealth Games.Two men on a motorcycle opened fire with a sub-machine gun on the minibus outside the biggest mosque in New Delhi Sunday, injuring two Taiwanese visitors, while a car burst into flames a short distance away.

"The car went up in flames due to a crudely circuited pressure-cooker bomb," a senior police official said, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

The Delhi government and officials attempted to play down the shooting, saying it was the work of criminals rather than Islamist group Indian Mujahideen, which claimed responsibility.

But a new travel warning on Monday from Australia, a key nation in the Commonwealth, will heighten anxiety among athletes travelling to New Delhi with an updated bulletin warning of a "high risk of terrorism".

And New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key said sports chiefs would decide this week whether to send athletes to the Games, acting on the advice of security experts.

"One always takes these things seriously but we are also very hopeful that the Commonwealth Games will proceed, that New Zealand will go and do very well," he told reporters.

Sunday’s shooting came just a fortnight before the start of the multi-sport Commonwealth Games, when 7,000 foreign athletes and officials from countries in the former British empire are expected in the Indian capital.

"Australians in New Delhi should be aware that the Commonwealth Games will be held in a security environment where there is a high risk of terrorism," said the new travel bulletin from Australia’s foreign department.

Indian officials have been repeatedly forced to defend security arrangements for the October 3-14 event amid fears about security in India, which is a target for home-grown and Pakistan-based militant groups.

A group claiming to be the Indian Mujahideen, an Indian Islamist organisation responsible for bomb blasts in the capital in 2008, sent an email to several media outlets saying it had carried out Sunday’s attack.

"We are warning you. If you have the guts, then organise the Commonwealth Games… We know that preparations are in full swing. Be prepared… We are also making preparations," PTI quoted the email as saying.

Authorities called for calm, however, and police cast doubt about the claim of responsibility.

The imam of the 17th-century Jama Masjid mosque, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, also told AFP the attackers had shot at the mosque, raising further questions about whether the firing was carried out by Islamists.

Witnesses speaking to the Mail Today newspaper said police had failed to react to stop the gunmen.

One rickshaw puller, Salim, told the newspaper that he had run and thrown a brick at the motorbike-borne attackers, while police had failed to fire back at the gunmen.

Another witness called Iqbal added: "Even in the midst of a tense situation it was funny to see a police constable with a stick chasing armed bikers when he should have shot them with a gun."

Witnesses and police said two men wearing raincoats and helmets rode up to the mosque in the heart of the historic old city, before opening fire and fleeing into the surrounding narrow streets.

Two male Taiwanese men aged 26 and 27 were injured, one seriously after being shot in the stomach.

He was operated on and was in a critical condition, Amit Banerjee, head of Lok Narayan Jay Prakash Hospital, told AFP late Sunday.

The other tourist suffered a superficial head injury.