Terror group's threat raises Dalai Lama alert
Bruce Loudon, South Asia correspondent
April 03, 2007
SECURITY surrounding the Dalai Lama has been tightened after reports of an attempt by the al-Qa'ida-linked terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Toiba to assassinate the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.
A three-tier security ring has been thrown around the 72-year-old Buddhist head, who lives at Dharamsala, in the Himalayan foothills, Indian police spokesman Prem Lal said.
All those approaching the exiled Tibetan chief will be closely watched by highly trained Tibetan security guards as well as heavily armed deployments of Indian police.
Visitors are being body-searched before being allowed to approach him.
The Dalai Lama is scheduled to make a widely anticipated 11-day visit to cities and regional centres across Australia in early June, making both free and ticketed appearances at public lectures, blessings and teaching sessions. Before that, he will visit the US.
Superintendent Lal said police had been alerted by central intelligence agencies to the reported plot by Lashkar-e-Toiba to kill the Dalai Lama "on the directions of a foreign organisation", which he declined to name, but is assumed to be al-Qa'ida.
In a recent document, Osama bin Laden denounced "pagan Buddhism" as part of his general attack on anything not Islamic.
The assassination threat picked up by Indian authorities is thought to be based on bin Laden's denunciation and the extremist jihadi movement's hatred for anything and anyone that is not Muslim.
Lashkar-e-Toiba is believed to be al-Qa'ida's agent in South Asia and has been involved in virtually every major terrorist attack in India.
Indian authorities recently heightened the security surrounding India's political leader, Sonia Gandhi, and members of her high-profile family following intelligence reports that they were on the extremist movement's hit list. Mrs Gandhi now travels the country in armed motorcades similar to those that carry the country's head of state, President Abdul Kalam.
The heavy security cordon thrown around the Dalai Lama at the Dharamsala exile where he has lived since fleeing Tibet is in sharp contrast to the normally relaxed atmosphere that pervades the town and is testimony of the extent to which Islamic terrorism is affecting even remote parts of the world.
As police disclosed the threat to the Dalai Lama, Indian officials drafted a strong declaration on terrorism in South Asia for leaders attending the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation summit beginning in New Delhi today.
Indian foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon said the draft declaration would discuss "not only about implementing what we have already agreed to, but to see what further action we, in thesub-region, can take against terrorism".
There are suggestions that leaders at the eight-nation summit will consider extending throughout Asia the joint mechanism to deal with terrorism recently established between India and Pakistan.
The mechanism involves close co-operation on all matters relating to terrorism and a regular exchange of intelligence.
Sri Lanka is particularly keen to see an integrated strategy that would assist it in its war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or Tamil Tigers. Colombo wants SAARC members to work with it to defeat the Tigers.
Similarly, India wants all eight SAARC nations to help it defeat the Lashkar-e-Toiba group and to pursue a campaign against the terrorist movement. But many Pakistanis see LeT fighters as heroes.
Published in The Australian