FBI Withheld Sikh Threat to Atom Plant, Gandhi Says
Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi criticized the FBI today for not telling his government that Sikh terrorists planning to assassinate him also intended to blow up a nuclear power plant in India.
In mid-May, the FBI announced that it foiled a plot to kill Gandhi while he was in the United States, and had arrested five Sikhs. It said an undercover agent infiltrated the Sikh gang and promised to help acquire arms and explosives for terrorist acts.
“The FBI had been involved in giving them training for the particular act they wanted to carry out,” Gandhi said. “In certain cases, the people who were giving this clandestine training were in touch with the FBI.”
He did not elaborate but apparently was referring to the FBI infiltration.
In Washington, FBI spokesman Lane Bonner said he saw the prime minister’s statements as recognition that the FBI “successfully interdicted a terrorist action before it could come to fruition and before any lives were lost. After all, that is the objective of our terrorism program, as Director (William H.) Webster has stated on many occasions.”
Gandhi added that “we are now satisfied” that the United States will do all it can to help combat terrorism by Sikh extremists. He spoke to American reporters before a trip to Egypt, France, Algeria and the United States, where he is scheduled to arrive June 11. He leaves Wednesday.
Sikhs, fighting for a homeland for the religious minority in Punjab, are accused of assassinating Gandhi’s mother, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and of other violent acts.
The prime minister said the FBI had been in touch with alleged Sikh terrorists since last November. The agency had information that the terrorists were planning to blow up an Indian nuclear power plant, he said, “but we were not told anything of this.”
Even if it was difficult to reveal details of the assassination plot in advance, Gandhi said, “they should have told us about an attempt on our nuclear power plant.”
“It would have been a Three Mile Island sort of thing,” the prime minister said, referring to the partial meltdown of the reactor core at a Pennsylvania nuclear power plant in 1979.