Wednesday, September 25, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Ultras storm Gujarat temple, kill 30

Describing the terrorist attack as a “repetition of Godhra”, the VHP has called for a countrywide bandh on September 26.

Gandhinagar, September 24
Thirty persons were killed and at least 100 wounded when gunmen attacked a temple in Gujarat, spraying victims with automatic fire, the police said. The dead included 11 women and four children.

The Akshardham temple
The Akshardham temple. — AFP photo

Two or three gunmen entered the Akshardham Temple complex in Gandhinagar and started firing indiscriminately at worshippers, a police official said.

The police had surrounded the temple and special commandos and the Army had been called in, another police official said.

The imposing, red sandstone temple, visited by former US President Bill Clinton in March, 2000, is a sprawling complex with a 15-acre garden.

A red alert has been sounded across the state and security tightened after the attack, official sources said. Intelligence sources had indicated that such attacks were possible in the wake of the February 27 Godhra train carnage which spawned communal riots in the state this year.

The entire 15-acre premises was immediately cordoned off by the Army, the police and other security forces and commando action was likely to flush out the intruders. A large number of tourists and pilgrims were present at the time in the temple.

The temple is barely 2 km from the Secretariat and the VVIP residential area where the Governor and the Chief Minister, besides ministers and officials, live.

Chief Minister Narendra Modi had already sought help from Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani who held a high-level meeting in New Delhi.

The Gujarat police and commandos have surrounded the temple complex in the Gandhinagar constituency of Mr Advani. All entrances to the temple have been closed.

While the exact number of attackers and their location inside the complex are not known, government spokesman Purushotam Rupala said according to initial reports three persons, probably carrying sten guns, entered the temple premises and fired indiscriminately.

According to reports, the attack took place at around 5.20 p.m. and about 500 devotees, many of them tourists, were inside the complex.

Commandos of the National Security Guard (NSG) are being rushed from Delhi to Gandhinagar. Agencies



Flushout operation by commandos

Gandhinagar, September 24
Nearly 50 Black Cat commandos of the elite National Security Guard began an operation late tonight at the Akshardham temple here to flush out terrorists.

The commandos arrived here along with Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani from New Delhi as a firefight between security forces and terrorists continued.

Temple sources said the terrorists did not seem to be aware of the layout of the premises.

“They could have escaped had they known the layout,” the sources said. Mr Advani told newspersons in Delhi late this evening that he had briefed President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister about the situation in Gandhinagar.

The Deputy Prime Minister said he had held telephonic talks with Mr Vajpayee, who was rushing back from the Maldives. UNI, TNS



Bush, UK, Pak condemn attack

Washington, September 24
The US President, Mr George W Bush, Britain and Pakistan today condemned the terrorist attack on a temple in Gandhinagar in Gujarat, saying such attacks can never be justified and do not promote any cause.

Mr Bush’s spokesman Ari Fleischer told mediapersons here that “the President condemns all terrorist attacks. This was a particularly deadly attack and the President condemns it.”

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, denouncing the attack, said: “I am horrified by this attack on innocent civilians. Religion can never be an excuse or justification for violence.”

In Islamabad, a Pakistan Foreign Ministry statement condemned the terrorist attack on the temple in Gandhinagar and resultant loss of life and said “targeting places of worship is particularly reprehensible.”

“Such attacks do not promote any cause and are, indeed, aimed at heightening tension in the region.”

NEW DELHI: The Shahi Imam of Fatehpuri Masjid Mufti M Mukarram Ahmad and Naib Imam Moulvi M Mouzzam Ahmad condemned the attack on the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar in Gujarat and demanded stern action against the militants.

They also demanded a high-level inquiry into the incident.

Expressing sorrow and grief over the killings of innocent people in the attack, the Shahi Imam said: “Islam is a religion of love and peace. It is against such heinous acts of killings.” UNI


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