By N.C Bipindra and Dick Schumacher
Nov. 5 (Bloomberg) — India pulled two naval warships out the Kolkata port yesterday after intelligence information that they might be targeted by terrorists, a navy officer familiar with the matter said.
The INS Khukri and INS Sumitra had entered the port of the city previously known as Calcutta late Nov.3 and had been scheduled to stay until tomorrow for public viewings, said the official, who asked not to be identified because the intelligence data isn’t public. The public visiting program has been canceled, the official said.
Kolkata remains on high alert, K.S. Dhatwalia, a spokesman for India’s Home Ministry, said by phone from New Delhi today. He declined to comment on precautions Indian police and intelligence agencies are taking to thwart an attack and said he wasn’t aware of who was behind the potential plot.
The decision to move the ships occurred two months after al-Qaeda said it planned to start operating in India and two days after a suicide bomber killed 55 people on the Pakistani side of that nation’s busiest border crossing with India. Islamist terrorists may be seeking to capitalize on divisions between India’s Hindu majority and its Muslim community, which accounts for about 13 percent of the population.
The two ships were withdrawn from Kolkata for “operational requirements,” Ministry of Defense spokesman Group Captain Tarun Kumar Singha said yesterday by phone from the eastern Indian city. He declined to comment further.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party is dominated by Hindu nationalists, and he led the state of Gujarat during 2002 religious riots that killed about 1,000 people, mostly Muslims.
Extremist groups have executed at least 11 major terrorist attacks since an intelligence overhaul in 2008 when Pakistani militants killed 166 people in Mumbai. The so-called Indian Mujahedeen, often linked to al-Qaeda training in Pakistan, is blamed for orchestrating a bombing that killed 16 people in Hyderabad last year and a 2011 blast at New Delhi’s high court that left 15 dead.
Pakistan has suffered from Islamic terrorism and more than 50,000 people have been killed in attacks by militant groups linked to the Pakistani Taliban and their allies in al-Qaeda since 2001. The Pakistani army is currently engaged in a ground offensive that started in late June to flush out militants in the tribal region of North Waziristan that the U.S. has called the “epicenter” of terrorism.
The Pakistani army also regularly engages Indian troops along their shared border in Kashmir, a region divided between the two countries and claimed in full by both. Since 1988, more than 14,000 Indian civilians and 6,000 security personnel have been killed in violence in the region, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, which doesn’t have similar figures for Pakistani deaths.
–With assistance from Kartikay Mehrotra in New Delhi.
Copyright 2014 Bloomberg.