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US Embassy Closed in India Due to Security Concerns - 2004-08-05

The U.S. Embassy in the Indian capital New Delhi has shut three of its offices because of security concerns. Officials are not commenting on local media reports that link the closure to terrorist threats.

U.S. officials would only say that a "security concern" prompted the partial closure of the U.S. embassy, affecting the immigration office, the consular section and the library. Press officer David Kennedy refused to disclose the precise cause of the concern.

"In light of a security concern, there was just a feeling it was better to limit the public access," he announced.

Local news media have reported that two suspected al-Qaida militants arrested in Pakistan last month supplied information that the terror group was threatening the embassy.

U.S. consular offices in Bombay, Madras and Calcutta remain open. Embassy officials say they will announce later Thursday whether the embassy offices in New Delhi will reopen on Friday.

Bombings and terrorist attacks have taken place in India - most often in the border region of Kashmir, which is claimed by both India and Pakistan. Muslim militants have fought a violent 15-year campaign to join the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir to Pakistan, or to make it independent.

Dipankar Banerjee is a retired Indian general and the director of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, a New Delhi-based think tank. He says al-Qaida was initially attracted to India because of the Kashmir issue.

"India with its ideology of democracy, of plurality, of tolerance, of religious accommodation threatens al-Qaida very, very severely," he said. "So?the terrorist attacks that one sees in India, in Jammu and Kashmir is - if not entirely, but substantially - supported by the whole terror network under the general rubric of al-Qaida."

Separately, local media have reported that a scheduled trip to the city of Bombay last Saturday by Indian President Abdul Kalam was canceled because of a terrorist threat.

More than 50 people in Bombay were killed last year in a bombing staged by an unknown group.