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Sunday, September 19, 1999 Published at 17:09 GMT 18:09 UK

World: South Asia

India slams bin Laden threat

L K Advani made his comments while campaigning in Orissa

By South Asia Correspondent Mike Wooldridge

Indian Home Minister L K Advani has said India would crush what he called religious terrorism with the same firmness it had shown in pushing back Pakistan-supported forces from Indian Kashmir.

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Mr Advani was speaking in the wake of a reported declaration of Jihad, or holy war, against the United States and India by Osama bin Laden.

The Saudi dissident is wanted by the American authorities in connection with last year's embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

In a purported statement from the Afghan city of Jalalabad last week, Mr bin Laden said the US and India were his biggest enemies and Jihad groups in Pakistan should join the war against them.

And he said India was staging a drama of an election in Kashmir.

Holy war threat

Osama bin Laden's statement came as the American state department's coordinator for counter-terrorism was visiting Delhi.

[ image: Police guard the US embassy in Delhi after the threats]
Police guard the US embassy in Delhi after the threats
India is playing a prominent role in seeking comprehensive international action against global or cross-border terrorism.

For these reasons, some here believe the timing of the Jihad threat may have been more than coincidence.

The External Affairs Minister, Jaswant Singh, before departing for New York and the United Nations General Assembly session, said it was not something new.

He said he was loath to individualise international terrorism but it was a very real and serious problem.

Invoking Kargil

The home minister - in the eastern state of Orissa for election campaigning - was less constrained.

[ image: Jaswant Singh:
Jaswant Singh: "A very real and serious problem"
Osama bin Laden's statement was, he maintained, yet another example of religious terrorism trying to disturb the democratic process and harmony between communities in India.

Terrorist organisations and their foreign patrons were mistaken, Mr Advani said, if they thought India was a soft state.

It would crush religious terrorism as firmly as the Pakistan-backed forces had been dealt with in the recent conflict in Kargil, in Indian Kashmir.

Kargil is high on the agenda of both the BJP-led ruling coalition and its main rival, Congress, in the election.

The BJP is proclaiming it as a great victory, Congress as a matter of national shame that the infiltration into Kashmir had taken place.

Mr Advani claimed that India needed a strong and uncompromisingly nationalistic government to foil terrorism.

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