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The BBC's Mike Wooldridge in Delhi
"The government was braced for a backlash"
 real 56k

Saturday, 23 December, 2000, 07:03 GMT
Police hunt Red Fort raiders
Guards at Red Fort
The Red Fort was sealed off after the attack
Police in India are searching for a suspected Kashmiri suicide squad who staged an attack on the historic Red Fort in Delhi, killing three people.

The victims - a soldier and two civilian employees of the Indian army - died when the militants stormed the building and opened fire on Friday evening.

They came, they opened fire and disappeared

Assistant Police Commissioner Ajay Chadha
A hardline Kashmiri separatist group, Lashkar-e-Toiba, contacted the BBC to say there had been an attack.

The famous red sandstone fort not only houses a military garrison, but is also one of India's interrogation centres where hundreds of Muslim separatists have been questioned in the past.

High-profile target

The BBC South Asia correspondent, Mike Wooldridge, says there are few more high-profile targets in India than the Red Fort. Independence from Britain was proclaimed from its ramparts half a century ago.

Police say the gunmen entered the fort and killed a guard, an army barber and a soldier.

They then headed for the museum within the fort complex and opened fire at the guards and other people there.

An army reaction team fired back, but after several hours of combing the warren-like building, the police concluded that the gunmen had probably slipped away in the darkness.

Police staged stop-and-search operations on roads leading out of the city.

'Suicide attack'

The telephone callers from Lashkar-e-Toiba said there had been a scuffle in the Red Fort and that two of their militants were inside the building.

They described it in one call as a suicide attack.

The group has admitted responsibility for a number of other such attacks in Kashmir.

The attack came the day after the Indian Government extended its current unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir by a month.

The ceasefire is being dismissed as a ploy by hardline militant groups, including Lashkar-e-Toiba.

A brief ceasefire in July brought a backlash of violence, and few were expecting that the new peace initiative would necessarily face fewer obstacles.

Our correspondent says the attack will raise questions about the future of the truce and security arrangements at the Red Fort, which is a popular tourist resort.

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22 Dec 00 | South Asia
Cautious welcome for Kashmir ceasefire
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