Saturday, September 15, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Contingency plan to protect sites
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 14
Even as the USA is all set to launch widespread and long-term reprisal attacks on the bases of most-wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden, a contingency plan is being readied by the Government of India for protection of key buildings and installations.

The contingency plan is being put in place for buildings like Rashtrapati Bhavan, Parliament House, Prime Minister’s house, North Block and South Block, well-placed sources said. Special security arrangement is being made for the Red Fort — scene of a major terrorist act some months back — as the monument is a symbol of Indian nationalism.

Besides, all airports in the country have also been alerted and sensitised to foil a possible hijacking.

The security exercise has been undertaken in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the USA, believed to have been perpetrated by the elusive most-wanted terrorist in the world Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden had gone on record in 1998 to announce a jehad against the USA, Israel and India which raises the obvious spectre of India and Israel being the next targets of Islamist terrorists.

It is understood that the USA’s inevitable reprisal attacks on Bin Laden’s bases spread over Afghanistan and some other countries, in which India is all set to cooperate, may trigger off spectacular attacks on high-profile Indian targets. In fact, sources stressed, such terrorist attacks could even precede the American retaliatory attacks to warn India against cooperating with the USA.

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), which met thrice in the last as many days, dealt with these issues threadbare. The CCS is understood to have given its nod to give logistical assistance to the USA for a military operation against Bin Laden.

However, what has not been concretised yet is which Indian airbases would India allow the USA to use. Another meeting of the CCS, slated tomorrow, is likely to take up this issue.

Meanwhile, security and strategic observers here attach a lot of significance to the closing down of Islamabad airport for six hours today. One view is that the airport closure could be a pointer of the coming US attacks on Afghanistan.

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