England pulls out of badminton worlds

HYDERABAD, India -- England has pulled out of the badminton world championships next week after the tournament reportedly received a terrorist threat from a Pakistan-based Islamic militant group.

But the police commission of Hyderabad said "there's no real threat, only a perception."

Badminton England announced its decision Sunday after citing media reports that the group Lashkar-e-Taiba is threatening to target the tournament. The event begins Monday.

"This was an incredibly tough decision and one we didn't take lightly," said chief executive Adrian Christy, who consulted with the British Foreign Office, British High Commission and local police. "We were not prepared to risk the safety of our players, coaches and staff in what we felt could have been a very volatile environment."

Police commissioner Prabhakar Reddy said 1,000 police have been mobilized and the security plan is in place.

"We're geared up for the event whether or not there was any threat," he said at a news conference, adding that no team had sought extra security.

Reddy said a complex operation had been set up to protect the players, accompanying them from their hotels to the venues.

Badminton Association of India president V.K. Verma said the event won't be hurt by England's withdrawal.

"I don't think this is a setback to the tournament. The quality and intensity of the championship will not be affected," Verma said. "There was never any threat to the tournament and this was conveyed to us by the police officials."

Thomas Lund, the chief operating officer for Badminton's governing body (BWF), said he had spent several hours with top police officials Saturday to get a security update. But England had already made its decision by then, he said.

"We had intelligence information following a meeting with the police commissioner Saturday, which would have been important in the assessment of security to their team," Lund said. "I personally went to give the information to England's team, but the decision had already been made."

In March, two of England's top badminton players withdrew from the India Open in Hyderabad citing security concerns.

Security concerns over sports events in South Asia have been heightened since an attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team in March at Lahore, Pakistan. Six policemen and a driver were killed in the ambush by heavily armed gunmen. Seven players, an assistant coach and a match official were injured.