Doubts over ‘Pakistani terrorists’ killed by India

* Retired army official says ‘everything looks suspicious’ in the two Pakistanis’ killing
* Says ‘encounter’ can affect India’s credibility

NEW DELHI: Doubts have been raised about police reports of a foiled attack on New Delhi blamed on Pakistani terrorists, with newspapers wondering if the whole episode might have been staged.

The controversy is an unwelcome distraction from India’s efforts to bring to book the Pakistanis it blames for November’s attack on Mumbai.

Police on Sunday said they killed two terrorists after a car chase in Noida city on the outskirts of New Delhi on the eve of Republic Day. AK-47 rifles, grenades and a Pakistani passport were recovered, according to officials.

But the story sounded too good to be true to some newspapers. The terrorists not only conveniently carried Pakistani identification, they also asked for directions outside Delhi with an AK-47 poking out of a bag, and then confessed before dying.

The incident came amid heightened tension with Pakistan after the Mumbai attacks late last year. A brutal attack on the capital could have the potential to push the neighbours closer to the brink.

Credibility: “(The doubts) hurt India’s credibility more now than ever before, especially as India is now under international focus and trying to tell the world to act against terrorism after attacks on Mumbai,” Major-General (r) Ashok Mehta told Reuters.

Indians even have a phrase for these kind of suspicions – ‘fake encounters’ — when police are accused of killing suspected criminals in cold blood and passing the incidents off as gunbattles to reap either fame or cash rewards.

Surprisingly, India’s Foreign Ministry and Home Ministry have both been silent on the case.

The doubts highlight a problem for India — that many people doubt the credibility of police accounts just as the Indian government is trying to show the world that Pakistan is behind terrorist attacks on its soil..

While similar incidents have been reported on the eve of many Republic Days, they did not have the same impact pre-Mumbai.

Now the stakes are higher, given the potential of incidents like these, real or fake, to raise diplomatic tension. One newspaper expressed doubts about the timing of Sunday’s incident.

“We would have been a wee bit surprised had the police not produced some ‘terrorists’ – slain or alive — in the run-up to the Republic Day,” the Mail Today said..

The Times of India raised several suspicions, from conflicting police versions to the fact two previous encounters had taken place in the same isolated spot in less than 10 months.

The terrorists not only advertised their intentions with a gun-laden bag, they also asked for directions from a tea-seller — who just happened to be a police informer, the paper said..

Uttar Pradesh police said they were still investigating. reuters

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