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India's riot troops to guard Prez Bush

New Delhi police placed the entire force of 71,000 officers on high alert and sealed off the hotel where Bush and his entourage will stay.

india Updated: Feb 27, 2006 14:43 IST

India on Monday began a major security drill for this week's visit of US President George W Bush, calling out commandos and riot police for the world's most powerful man.

Bush arrives in New Delhi on Wednesday on a three-day tour, which will also take him to Hyderabad, capital of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

New Delhi police on Monday placed the entire force of 71,000 officers on high alert and sealed off the hotel where Bush and his entourage will stay during the trip, the second to India by a US president in six years.

Police sources told the agency that an advance team of 250 US Secret Service personnel had arrived in four aircraft, which also ferried a fleet of automobiles including armoured limousines to be used by Bush and his entourage.

The United States has also sent at least four helicopters to the Indian capital for the presidential visit, which ends on Saturday when Bush flies off to Pakistan, the sources said.

"It will be a three-tier security system with the Central Reserve Police Force manning the outer ring and routes to be used," a police officer said of India's anti-riot force.

The Maurya Sheraton hotel reserved for Bush and his team has been declared a no-fly zone and the military has positioned batteries of anti-aircraft guns and other weaponry as a precaution against airborne attacks, defence ministry officials said.

"There'll be adequate air-cover," one defence ministry official said, adding that fighter jets will be on standby for the duration of Bush's visit.

Electronic warfare systems were being installed on Monday along roads Bush is likely to travel during his stay here, the official said on condition of anonymity, adding that marksmen would be positioned on high-rise buildings at key points.

"But the most complex security set-up is being put in place at Purana Qila, where the US president will address leaders and industrialists," a senior police official said of a 16th-century fort which overlooks a ramshackle zoo.

Bush will meet his Indian counterpart Abdul Kalam at his British-built palace under the watchful eye of presidential guards. He will hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at a state guest house which is already off limits to civilians.

The US president after reaching Hyderabad on Air Force One will travel only by helicopter while visiting an agriculture university, a business school and a frontline medical research facility, officials said.

US First Lady Laura Bush will also take the aerial route to visit a privately-run agency to meet people living with HIV/AIDS in the troubled southern Indian city, the officials said by telephone from Hyderabad.

First Published: Feb 27, 2006 14:43 IST