By Alistair Scrutton
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Doubts have been raised about police reports of a foiled attack on India's capital blamed on Pakistani militants, with newspapers wondering if the whole episode might have been staged.
The controversy is an unwelcome distraction from India's efforts to bring to book the Pakistanis it blames for November's attack on Mumbai.
Police on Sunday said they killed two militants after a car chase in Noida city on the outskirts of New Delhi on the eve of Republic Day. AK-47 rifles, grenades and a Pakistani passport were recovered, according to officials.
But the story sounded to some newspapers too good to be true. The militants not only conveniently carried Pakistani identification, they also asked for directions outside Delhi with an AK-47 poking out of a bag, and then confessed before dying.
The incident came amid heightened tension with Pakistan after the Mumbai attacks late last year. A brutal attack on the capital could have the potential to push the two nuclear-armed neighbours closer to the brink.
"(The doubts) hurt India's credibility more now than ever before, especially as India is now under international focus and trying to tell the world to act against terrorism after attacks on Mumbai," retired Major-General Ashok Mehta told Reuters.
Indians even have a phrase for these kind of suspicions -- "fake encounters" -- when police are accused of killing suspected criminals in cold blood and passing the incidents off as gunbattles to reap either fame or cash rewards.
"Doubts have always persisted about fake encounters and killings in India, but everything looks suspicious in this case," Mehta, a security analyst, said. Continued...