Tags: Anti-U.S. | Attack | India | Linked | Sept.

Anti-U.S. Attack in India Linked to Sept. 11

Tuesday, 22 January 2002 12:00 AM

Five police officers were killed and 18 others wounded Tuesday by four motorcycle-riding gunmen in eastern India.

Officials said the death toll likely will rise because many of those injured had very serious wounds. Four of the wounded officers were in critical condition hours after the attack. The officers were all from the Calcutta police or a private security agency, Group Four.

Talking to reporters during a visit to Charleston, W.Va., Bush said the U.S. administration was "gathering more information" about the attack to "find out exactly what the facts are."

When a reporter asked him whether it was an attack on the United States, the president said: "Terror is terror ... it does not matter whether it's an attack on us or an attack on other people. You've got to work together to fight off terrorists."

Meanwhile, investigators in India said Tuesday that the attack was linked to the Sept. 11 terror strikes on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Officials at India's Central Bureau of Investigation said they have already provided evidence about this link to FBI officials based in New Delhi. India is one of nine countries where the prime U.S. intelligence agency has an office.

Indian officials said the ransom money one of the suspects received for releasing a Calcutta businessman last year was used to finance Mohammed Atta, leader of the hijackers who rammed planes into buildings in New York and the Washington area.

Indian intelligence officials identified the suspect as Aftab Ansari, a Dubai-based don of the Indian underworld.

According to the Press Trust of India news agency, Director P.C. Sharma of India's Central Bureau of Investigation told FBI chief Robert S. Mueller, now in New Delhi, that Ansari had received about $776,000 to free Calcutta businessman Roy Burman through channels to Dubai.

Out of this amount, Omar Sheikh, one of the three militants released by India in return for the hostages of an hijacked Indian plane in Kandahar in December 1999, had sent $100,000 to Atta by telegraphic transfer, the report said.

According to the Indian news agency, Ansari had been directed by Sheikh in August of last year to establish a network for covert operations launched through Bangladesh as well as carrying out kidnappings to secure the release of some hardcore militants from jails.

Earlier reports said gunmen attacked the United States Information Service building at 6:30 a.m. in Calcutta.

One of the injured policemen said pillion riders from both motorcycles fired automatic weapons at the approximately two dozen police guarding the building.

"It was all over within 20 seconds," a police officer quoted an injured policeman as saying.

Authorities said a manhunt had been launched to find those guilty of the deadly attack. Two Islamic rebel groups have separately claimed blame.

India's Star News TV said Harkat-ul-Jehad-e-Islami, which is linked with the outlawed Jaish-e-Mohammad, and Asif Rezak Commandoes, whose leader was killed by the Indian police last month, have taken blame. Police are investigating their claims.

The Press Trust of India reported a few hours after the attack, an unknown person from Asif Rezak Commandos called a Bengali newspaper office and claimed the attack was to avenge the death of Asif Rezak Khan, who was killed Dec. 7 while trying to flee from police. Calcutta police were investigating the claim, especially as to why the American Center was singled out for the attack to avenge Asif Rezak's killing.

A statement issued by the U.S. Consulate in Calcutta said Indian Home Minister L.K. Advani phoned the U.S. Ambassador Robert Blackwill to express his concern over the shooting incident.

The statement said the United States had no information so far about the identity of the attackers.

Advani later said the attack was carried out by people with connections to Pakistan intelligence services. Pakistan denied the allegation.

India said the Dec. 13 attack on its Parliament, in which 14 people died, was carried out by a militant group supported by Pakistan. While Islamabad denied the charge, it outlawed several militant groups. Still, both countries have staged massive military buildups along the Line of Control that separates the countries in Kashmir.

The American Center has been closed, and the staff has been moved to the U.S. consulate in Calcutta. The center, which houses a library, a cultural center and the U.S. Consulate's public affairs office is visited by hundreds of people every day. Security around the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi and consulates in other cities has been beefed up. Roads around U.S. facilities have been closed.

The attack took place as a Indo-U.S. working group was meeting in New Delhi to discuss steps to combat terrorism. The attack also coincided with the visit of FBI Director Robert Mueller, who arrived in New Delhi for talks with Indian officials on counter terrorism cooperation.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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Five police officers were killed and 18 others wounded Tuesday by four motorcycle-riding gunmen in eastern India. Officials said the death toll likely will rise because many of those injured had very serious wounds. Four of the wounded officers were in critical...
Tuesday, 22 January 2002 12:00 AM
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