Fern, haka make NZ fans terror targets

By James Ihaka

Kiwi sports fans heading to New Delhi for the Commonwealth Games may best be advised not to break out into haka, wear fake moko or don the silver fern as they could become targets of al Qaeda kidnapping plots.

An Australian newspaper reported yesterday that citizens of countries involved in the war in Afghanistan could be targeted by terrorist groups with al Qaeda links.

The Sunday Herald Sun said security experts had warned Australian supporters to keep a low profile in Delhi and leave Australian colours at home.

The concerns about security and terrorism are the latest in an ongoing and damning saga for Indian Commonwealth Games officials and follow sportsmen pulling out of the Games and fears that facilities and the athletes' village are not up to the standards expected.

A spokesman for the New Zealand Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade would not be drawn into whether All Black jerseys, silver fern flags, fake moko and impromptu haka were appropriate in the Indian capital.

"The official line is everything you need to know is on the safe travel website," he said.

The website's safe travel advisory warns that not only is New Delhi experiencing a seasonal outbreak of dengue fever, but there is also a "significant threat" of terrorism.

It says recent attacks - including one where two tourists were injured in a shooting near the Jama Masjid mosque in New Delhi on September 19 - have targeted public places frequented by tourists.

In April, two bombs exploded outside a cricket stadium in Bangalore where an Indian Premier League match was being played. Seventeen people were injured.

In February, nine people were killed and 60 hurt when a bomb exploded at a German bakery in Pune, an area popular with tourists.

New Zealanders are being advised to register details of their travel to New Delhi with the ministry, and by Friday more than 300 had.

The Foreign Affairs spokesman expected that number to be close to 850 by the end of the week as athletes, relatives, officials and media representatives make their way to the Games.

In London, the Observer reported that the UK-based firm Control Risks had warned that the diversion of security resources to the main stadiums left India without the capacity or capability to protect "soft" targets, because local police were not up to the job.

The firm advised its clients to stay away from tourist attractions, public places and government buildings, and not to travel by public transport.

The company's South Asia senior analyst, Chietigj Bajpaee, said there was a "relatively high likelihood" of attacks taking place.

Meanwhile, Commonwealth Games Federation chief Michael Hooper told TVNZ's Q+A programme yesterday that the delays, controversy and security fears had "deterred a lot of people from coming" to Delhi.

He said the city was responsible for delivering on all the promises it made.

"Unfortunately, those promises haven't been met and they certainly haven't been met on time.

"We hope that things will change in the next few days."

- NZ Herald

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