India was on high alert Tuesday as it celebrated 59 years of independence amid threats of terrorist attacks that the prime minister said undermined a 2 1/2-year peace process with Pakistan.
Intelligence reports have indicated that Islamic militant groups might be plotting major attacks around Tuesday's celebrations. Last week, the U.S. Embassy warned that groups linked to al-Qaida could target hotels, airports or historic monuments in New Delhi, Bombay or other cities.
In his Independence Day address to the nation, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said terrorists want to derail India's booming economy, destroy the unity of its people and spark religious strife.
Singh said every Indian wants to live in a prosperous South Asia where people trade freely in goods, culture and ideas, but such aspirations can only be realized if there is "an atmosphere of peace."
He said India had launched several initiatives to achieve peace, especially with Pakistan, but terror attacks such as the deadly Bombay train bombings of July 11 were undoing its efforts. India suspects Pakistan-based Islamic militant groups were responsible for the blasts, which killed 207 people, the AP reports.
In January 2004, India and Pakistan agreed to start a peace process aimed at ending their decades-old rivalry and dispute over Kashmir, the divided Himalayan region claimed by both. Pakistan agreed to crack down on militants who allegedly cross into India's part of Kashmir and stage attacks.
Security forces shut all roads leading to the Red Fort to normal traffic and were checking every vehicle entering the city. No-fly zones were declared over New Delhi, and sharpshooters were posted on the rooftops of government and other high-rise buildings, according to the AP.
Authorities deployed more than 60,000 police and paramilitary soldiers across the Indian capital, a city of 14 million people, where terror attacks were feared the most, a Home Ministry official said on customary condition of anonymity.
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