Wellington, Feb 17 NZPA - Government officials are liaising with sports bodies in light of terror threats targeting sports events in India as the New Zealand hockey team prepares to travel there.
The warning was published yesterday by Asia Times Online, which said it had received a message from top guerrilla commander Ilyas Kashmiri, whose 313 Brigade is an operational arm of al Qaeda, the organisation blamed for the September 2001 attacks on New York City.
It warned the international community not to send their people to the 2010 hockey World Cup, the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket competition involving international players and the Commonwealth Games, to be held in Delhi in October.
Hockey New Zealand said it still planned to send the Black Sticks to hockey World Cup, which starts next week.
Foreign Minister Murray McCully's office was saying little about the threats today, other than to say the situation was being monitored closely and officials were liaising with representatives of the various sports bodies potentially affected by the threats.
Labour Party foreign affairs spokesman Chris Carter said recent terror attacks in India meant such threats had to be taken seriously.
However, he said he was confident Indian authorities had a good handle on the situation and wanted to see New Zealand sports teams continue with scheduled visits.
"My initial thoughts are to go -- in fact you have to go -- otherwise you give in to the terrorists," he told NZPA.
"I think our government and sports bodies need to work closely with the government of India to reassure themselves and their sports people and any New Zealand tourists that are going that every step is being taken to take people safe."
Mr Carter said he had discussed the security situation last night with Indian Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi, who is visiting New Zealand on a fellowship, and came away feeling confident India was very aware of the implications of the threats and was taking all possible steps to ensure safety.
Those travelling to India also needed to be aware of security risks and be sensible with their own travel arrangements, he said.
Hockey New Zealand chief executive Hillary Poole told Radio New Zealand the organisation was seeking detailed advice from the FIH (International Hockey Federation) responsible for hosting the hockey World Cup in Delhi.
Ms Poole said at this stage Hockey New Zealand was comfortable about sending the team over, but was monitoring the situation closely.
"The security and safety of our team is paramount and we are continuing to seek advice from our security advisors."
New Zealand men's hockey coach Shane McLeod was unaware of the al Qaeda warning when contacted by NZPA last night.
He said the team was comfortable with security arrangements in place but unsure how the landscape would now change.
"Up until this point in time we've felt pretty comfortable about where we're at and how well we'd be looked after," McLeod said.
"We had (been fully briefed) prior to this obviously. We've got a security guy going with us and a lot of time has been spent on that security issue."
The Black Sticks were booked at a hotel not far from the Dhyan Chand National Stadium, with the bus journey estimated at 10 minutes.
"It's pretty much from the turf to the hotel is where we expect to spend most of our time. We've been briefed that we won't be touring around," McLeod said.
New Zealand Commonwealth Games officials expect to hear today from security forces on how seriously to take the threat.
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