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Thousands of security forces guard New Delhi for Republic Day celebrations

Thousands of security forces guard New Delhi for Republic Day celebrations

Thousands of security personnel, including snipers, were deployed across India's capital and some metro rail services were suspended Friday to prevent any militant attacks during national day celebrations, officials said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who arrived Thursday for a two-day visit, was to be the chief guest at a parade in downtown New Delhi _ the highlight of the annual Republic Day festivities.
School children, folk dancers, and police and military battalions were to march down the main avenue in central New Delhi, followed by a display of India's military hardware and an aerial show by fighter aircraft.
At least 15,000 police and security forces were deployed across the city, said Dipendra Pathak, a top police official. Much of downtown New Delhi was sealed off and snipers were deployed at key positions, he said. Barricades were erected across roads leading to the parade route and all vehicles were being checked.
Authorities announced that the city's metro rail service would be partially shut down for several hours Friday to prevent terror attacks on the transport service. Parking lots at all metro stations were closed.
Although there have been no specific threats, a spate of deadly bombings in 2006 _ including an attack on a temple in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi and railway bombs in Mumbai that killed more than 200 people _ warranted the extra security, Pathak said.
Several separatist groups in the country's restive northeast and in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir have called general strikes for Republic Day, which marks the adoption of India's democratic Constitution on Jan. 26, 1950. The country gained freedom from British colonial rule in 1947.
Security was tightened at all major government telecommunications and power installations, with additional personnel deployed, Pathak said.
In the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir, authorities closed roads leading to a soccer stadium in Srinagar, where a parade was to be held, said Farooq Ahmed, a deputy-inspector general of police.
"There are intelligence inputs that militants will try to disrupt the Republic Day functions in Kashmir," Ahmed said. "We're doing everything possible to thwart any possible attempt."
Hezb-ul-Mujahedeen, the largest Kashmiri rebel group, and the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, an umbrella group of separatist political and religious groups, called for a general strike in the Kashmir Valley.
Hezb-ul-Mujahedeen is one of more than a dozen Islamic militant groups that have been fighting since 1989, seeking Muslim-majority Kashmir's independence from predominantly Hindu India, or its merger with Islamic Pakistan.
More than 68,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the 18-year conflict.
The Himalayan territory of Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, and is claimed by both. The two countries have fought two wars over it since their independence from Britain in 1947.
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Associated Press reporter Aijaz Hussain in Srinagar contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-04-19 04:59 GMT+08:00