Sunday, January 25, 2009

India steps up security ahead of Republic Day

by By Alistair Scrutton

NEW DELHI (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 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.

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