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New Delhi Tightens Security Following Bombing - 2001-08-12

Security has been tightened in the Indian capital following a crude bomb explosion. Security forces are on high alert for attacks by separatist militant groups ahead of the country's Independence Day celebrations August 15.

The crude bomb exploded late Saturday in a popular, and usually crowded, shopping district in South Delhi. But there were few people around because the market was shut. Police reported two cyclists were injured.

A tight security net has been clamped on the city in preparation for the August 15 Independence Day celebrations.

The annual event is boycotted by rebel groups in Kashmir and the country's northeast. They call Independence Day "black day."

Security concerns are especially strong this year, due to a surge in violence by Muslim separatist groups in Kashmir, following a failed summit between the Indian and Pakistani leaders.

Officials say they have intelligence reports that hardline Pakistan-based militant groups may be planning attacks in against senior government leaders. The Red Fort, from where the Indian prime minister addresses the nation, has been shut to tourists for a week.

"Renewed directions have been issued to Pak[istan]-sponsored terrorists that they must indulge in acts of violence in the country," senior Delhi police officer R.S. Gupta explained. "We in Delhi police have made elaborate arrangements for ensuring the peaceful conduct of the Independence Day celebrations." Security is also tight in Kashmir, with hundreds of paramilitary troops carrying out search and cordon operations across the summer capital Srinagar, where Independence Day celebrations are held at a heavily-guarded stadium. Kashmir's main separatist alliance, the All Parties Huriyat Conference has called for a general strike on August 15.

In the remote northeast, authorities Sunday canceled operation of night trains, as separatists threatened major strikes in the run-up to Independence Day celebrations. In the past, passenger trains and strategic bridges have been attacked. More than 150,000 troops are on alert in the region. Indian security forces have been battling guerrilla groups in Kashmir and in the country's northeast region for more than a decade.