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TAJ MAHAL TO OPEN FOR NIGHT VIEWING

The Taj Mahal will be open for moonlight viewing later this month for the first time since terrorist threats forced its nighttime closure 15 years ago, a government minister says.

"We want tourists from all over the world to enjoy the beauty of the Taj by day, and by night," says Ashok Yadav, tourism minister of Uttar Pradesh, the state where the 17th-century Taj Mahal is located.

Night viewing at the Taj, a massive white marble mausoleum of the Mogul queen Mumtaz Mahal, begins Dec. 22, Yadav says.

The gates to the monument have been closed at 7 p.m. since 1984, when Sikh militants threatened to blow it up.

The Taj Mahal, celebrated as a monument of love, is on the bank of the Yamuna River in the city of Agra, once the capital of the Mogul empire, about 200 km (120 miles) south of New Delhi. Most tourists arrive in the morning and leave at night.

About 2.2 million tourists visited the Taj last year, including 620,000 foreign visitors.

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