Indian Mujahideen leader killed; top cop dead in Delhi gunbattle

NEW DELHI, Sept. 20, 2008, (AFP) - Police launched an intense manhunt across the Indian capital today for two suspected Islamic extremists who escaped a dramatic gunbattle in which two militants and a police officer died.

The two militants killed during Friday's shootout in a Muslim area of New Delhi included one of the leaders of a shadowy group responsible for a series of deadly bomb attacks including blasts in the city a week ago, officials said.

The hour-long gunbattle erupted in Jamia Nagar in the capital's south when police acting on a tip found at least five armed men holed up in an apartment in a maze of narrow streets.

Police Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma, one of the police force's top officers, died in hospital from gunshot wounds, police commissioner Y.S. Dadhwal said, adding one suspected militant arrested at the scene was being interrogated. One of the dead militants was Indian Mujahideen leader “Atif alias Bashir” who was “linked with the blasts all over the country,” he said.

Detectives arrested a suspected aide of Atif at a New Delhi TV studio late Friday. “We had a tip he would visit this studio to make a statement on behalf of the militants and we picked up him from the studio,” a senior anti-terrorism squad official told AFP, declining to reveal the name of the studio.

Police identified the arrested Muslim man as Zeeshan but said he was not one of the two suspected militants who escaped during Friday's gunbattle. “He had perhaps left the apartment much earlier in the morning and we're probing if he was among those who planted the bombs in New Delhi on September 13,” the anti-terrorism official said.

The Indian Mujahideen claimed responsibility for a series of blasts which ripped through busy shopping areas of New Delhi last Saturday.

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