US Center attack leaves four policemen dead

Kolkata, January 22: | Updated: Jan 23 2002, 05:30am hrs
International terrorism shattered the peace of West Bengals capital early Tuesday morning as two or three men blazed away with AK47 assault rifles at the heavily guarded American Center, leaving four policemen dead and at least nine injured.

While Kolkata Police was still trying to reconstruct the attack, the Americans seemed to hold the key the events as recorded by the security camera.

Police Commissioner Sujoy Kumar Chakraborty said US officials had not disclosed if their security camera had recorded anything.

Capping a day of high-level meetings and briefings, the ruling CPM promptly organised a rally in the heart of the city to condemn terrorism and take a dig at spying activities of foreign consulate staff. In a late evening briefing, the commissioner, flanked by the chiefs of his detectives, said the CID of the state police had later received a call traced to a Dubai telephone number, in which a newly-formed group claimed responsibility for the attack.

The caller, one Aftab Ansari, claimed that the attack was to avenge the killing of a suspect in an encounter by the Gujarat police.

The suspect, Asif Raza Khan, had been arrested in a case relating to the abduction of city businessman Partha Roy Burman last year.

The police picket, a familiar sight outside the American Center because of its propensity to attract all protestors against imperialist activities of the US, was armed mostly with lathis, shields and tear gas. Following the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US last year, six policemen with .303 rifles had been added to the force.

But the dawn attack caught them completely unprepared, as the contingent going off duty had unloaded their rifles and the ones dismounting their vehicle had not yet loaded up.

The police declined to confirm that the attack was the handiwork of the Harkatul Jihadi Islam.

He said Kolkata police will continue to handle security at all consulates in Kolkata. Defending the level of security, he said the picket was mainly aimed at handling demonstrations. Government policy was to allow peaceful demonstration, protest etc against the American government, he said. This force was mainly for that. Additionally, we had kept six rifles, the standard weapon used by the police.

Industry for swift action
Our Corporate Bureau

New Delhi, January 22:CII president Sanjiv Goenka has condemned the attack and said that although it would not have any impact on the overall business scenario, the government should take quick and decisive action to allay concerns in this regard.

Strongly condemning the attack, regional president of Indo-American Chambers of Commerce (IACC) Bimal Sareen said that swift action must be taken against terrorism in all forms. PHD Chambers of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI) has described the crime as heinous against humanity. Its president Arun Kapur said no words were adequate to condemn it.