A bomb threat forced the evacuation of India's Parliament on Friday, but the all-clear was sounded after police using bomb-sniffing dogs failed to find any explosives. About an hour after the alarm was raised, Home Minister Shivraj Patil said "the officers who are in charge of security have checked the building and they have told me there is nothing to worry about."
He called the evacuation of Parliament, which suffered a suicide attack four years ago, "a precautionary measure." Dogs and police bomb squads were used to search the building Parliament reconvened by mid-afternoon, and Patil told lawmakers that the bomb threat came in an e-mail to a U.S. diplomatic mission in India. The warning was passed on to Indian authorities, who alerted Parliament, he said. A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi would not directly comment on Patil's statement, but said: "We have excellent cooperation with the government of India and on a regular basis share information with them." Patil said the government would review security measure in and around Parliament.
Initial reports of what prompted the alert differed widely, a police officer at the scene, Dev Dutt, said Parliament staff received an anonymous phone call warning of a bomb in the building, and staffers said they had heard reports of unidentified bags found on the premises.
The bomb scare revived memories of the December 2001 suicide attack on Parliament that left 14 people dead. New Delhi blamed Pakistan's spy agency and severed diplomatic ties with Islamabad, cut travel links and moved hundreds of thousands of troops to their border.
Pakistan denied the charges, but matched India's moves. The two countries were talked back from the brink of war through intensive diplomatic efforts. After the alert was issued Friday, both houses of Parliament were adjourned and Indian lawmakers, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and their staffs were asked to leave the building.
Witnesses said people were seen running from parliament, and soldiers patrolled the grounds around the circular structure. Sirens were also heard blaring near Parliament. "I was working on my computer when people started running, saying there was a bomb in the building," said Asif Mohammad, a computer programmer in Parliament's upper house. "All the (lawmakers) and staff were asked to evacuate by the security staff." He had heard an unclaimed bag had been found at one of the building's gates, reports the AP. N.U.