Gunmen kill 3 at U.S. cultural center in India

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

NEW DELHI, India -- Attackers opened fire at police officers guarding a U.S. government cultural center in Calcutta today, killing at least three people, police said.

Seven others -- including six police and a private security guard -- were wounded. No one was in the building when the shootout occurred, police officials said.

Police in Calcutta said an undetermined number of attackers fired at local police officers in front of the building, known as the American Center, at 6:30 a.m. then fled.

U.S. Embassy officials in New Delhi said there could be several casualties, but declined to give more details.

The American Center is a U.S. government building housing a library, a public affairs office and the press section, and a wing where cultural programs are held.

Police said there was no indication who the attackers were.

The attack comes slightly more than a month after an assault on the Indian Parliament that left 14 people dead. India blamed two Pakistan-based Islamic militant groups for the attack, which touched off a diplomatic clash that put India and Pakistan on a war footing.

The American Center is a landmark in Calcutta, the capital of the communist-run West Bengal state. Anti-American protests by communists and labor unions are often held there. Hundreds of students visit its library daily.

Security has been tightened in recent months at the American Embassy in New Delhi, consulate buildings and other offices across the country to prevent possible attacks by Islamic guerrillas fighting to separate the Himalayan region of Kashmir from Indian control.

The attack came with U.S. Ambassador at Large Francis X. Taylor in India to discuss ways to fight terrorism. On Monday, Indian and American officials also held the first meetings of the Joint Working Group on Counterterrorism, the first since the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States.

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