ISIS threat in India ahead of French leader's visit

NEW DELHI • India is taking no chances ahead of French President Francois Hollande's three-day visit starting tomorrow as threats grow from militant groups, including the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

This week, police arrested four students in their early 20s who planned to attack a Hindu pilgrimage site and Delhi shopping malls that are frequented by foreigners and wealthy Indians, according to Mr Arvind Deep, a police official in the capital. The men were in touch with handlers in Iraq and Syria, Times of India reported, citing unidentified sources.

The threats come as ISIS-linked militants become active in Asia following a high-profile attack in Paris last year. After attacks in Jakarta last week left eight people dead, Malaysian police detained four people with suspected links to ISIS and Singapore deported 26 Bangladeshis accused of backing violent extremism.

Mr Hollande will join Prime Minister Narendra Modi at India's annual Republic Day parade next Tuesday. The French leader has vowed to fight the ISIS for "as long as necessary" after terrorists killed 130 people in and around Paris. France has been conducting air strikes against the group in Syria and Iraq.

About 8,000 police officers and 12,000 paramilitary personnel will be deployed in the capital, along with snipers and sniffer dogs, according to a Delhi police spokesman.

The US Central Intelligence Agency is assisting Indian and French authorities to ensure the safety of Mr Modi and Mr Hollande, the Times of India reported, citing people it did not identify. Home Minister Rajnath Singh convened a meeting with top intelligence and investigation officials last Saturday to discuss the threat of a "lone wolf" ISIS sympathiser launching an attack during the parade, the Press Trust of India reported.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2016, with the headline 'ISIS threat in India ahead of French leader's visit'. Print Edition | Subscribe