India steps up security on Republic Day

Two months after the Mumbai attacks during which Pakistani militants killed 179 people, India is preparing to hold its Republic Day celebrations amid tight security.


REUTERS - Troops stepped up patrols in many parts of India and cities were on high alert as the country prepared its Republic Day celebrations on Monday only two months after the Mumbai attacks.

Police said they killed two suspected Pakistani militants after a pre-dawn car chase on Sunday at Noida city bordering New Delhi. Police recovered AK-47 rifles, grenades and a Pakistani passport.

The Mumbai attacks in late November, when Pakistani militants killed 179 people in coordinated assaults, have raised tension between nuclear powers India and Pakistan. India has blamed Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militants for the attacks.

On Sunday, security forces in Jammu and Kashmir region killed two senior separatist militants on the national highway, officials said. Troops also opened fire after four to five militants tried to cross the border from the Pakistan side.

Every year, rebels call for a boycott of India's Republic Day, which marks adoption of a republican constitution after independence from Britain, and other holidays. They often carry out attacks on security forces and government buildings.

India will host Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev during the celebrations in New Delhi, when India displays its military might.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, recovering in hospital after a heart bypass operation on Saturday, will not attend the event.

Delhi was on high alert.

"This year we have more policemen, more anti-aircraft guns and three helicopters ready to fly out with commandoes in case of any emergency," Rajan Bhagat, the Delhi Police spokesman, said.

Security was tight in Mumbai. Police patrolled outside high-profile public places. The main railway station, a Jewish centre and two five star hotels were targets of the militants in the November attacks.

"We have called in for additional forces and we will be keeping an eye out," said K.L. Prasad, Mumbai police commissioner.

The Indian coastguard and navy stepped up patrols. The Mumbai attackers entered India by sea.

Separatist rebel groups in India's restive northeast called a general strike on Monday across the region in protest against New Delhi rule.

Thousands of people have died in separatist insurgencies over the last few decades. Troops and police stepped up patrols across the region's eight states, guarding bridges, railway stations and airports.

In Kashmir, separatist violence has declined since India and Pakistan, who claim the region in full but rule it in parts, launched a peace process in 2004.

But people are still killed almost daily in fighting between militants and soldiers.

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