India

Unknown group claims Pune attack, NZ hockey suspends India trip

Photo: Reuters

A previously unknown Islamist group has claimed responsibility for the attack on a restaurant in the western Indian city of Pune over the weekend. And the New Zealand hockey team has suspended a trip to India for the Hockey World Cup that is to be held in Delhi at the end of the month because of an al-Qaeda-linked threat of attacks against international competitors.

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A caller identifying himself as the spokesperson for the Lashkar-e-Taiba al-Almi told The Hindu newspaper that his group had carried out the Pune bombing, whose death toll has risen to 11. He said it was in response to India's "refusal" to discuss the disputed Kashmir region with Pakistan in peace talks, due to resume this month, on 25 February.

The caller said Lashkar-e-Taiba al-Almi is a splinter group of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the banned Pakistani-based terrorism organization that is blamed in India for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and that it was formed because Lashkar-e-Taiba "took its orders from Pakistan's intelligence agency".

The Hindu reports that terrorism experts in New Delhi had never heard of Lashkar-e-Taiba al-Almi.

The caller said he was in Miramshah, in North Waziristan. The number’s area code is common in an area code that is common to the Waziristan tribal area and neighbouring Bannu district, according to The Hindu. When the paper tried calling back, the number was not working.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand hockey team has suspended its plans to travel to India Monday for the Hockey World Cup on 28 February, following a warning issued by an extremist against international athletes travelling to India.

The Asia Times Online received a message Monday from Ilyas Kashmiri, a Kashmir-based guerrilla commander of the al-Qaeda-linked 313 Brigade, warning competitors.

“We warn the international community not to send their people to the 2010 Hockey World Cup, IPL [Indian Premier League cricket] and Commonwealth Games [in Delhi in October]. Nor should their people visit India - if they do, they will be responsible for the consequences,” he wrote.

The Asia Times Online said the message, which could not be verified, also implied the 313 Brigade had something to do with the Pune bombing, though Kashmiri did not claim responsibility.

The chief executive of Hockey New Zealand, Hilary Poole, said travel plans to India are suspended “until further notice”. The Australian team’s plans to travel to Delhi Sunday remain unchanged.

Both teams are consulting with their governments to asses the threat and its credibility.

 

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