Police Kill Five Protesters after India Outlaws Radical Islamic Group
Five people were killed Thursday after police fired on demonstrators protesting the arrest of leaders of a banned Islamic student organization in this northern Indian city.
The violence erupted after police sealed off the offices of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and came hours after New Delhi imposed a nationwide ban on the radical Muslim group.
Officials in New Delhi said the group was outlawed following reports that some SIMI leaders had close links with Islamic separatist groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen in Kashmir.
They said intelligence reports also linked SIMI to a string of bombings in the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and New Delhi and added the attacks were conducted on the behest of Hizbul Mujahedeen.
The SIMI, founded in 1977 to usher in an "Islamic revolution" in India, has denied any links with Kashmiri Muslim militant organizations.
Home Minister L.K. Advani warned of "firm action" against the SIMI, which he said was behind the bombings.
Top home ministry officials said similar raids were conducted against SIMI establishments in 16 of India's 27 states.
"Scores of activists of SIMI were arrested today following the raids in different parts of the country," said the ministry's Kamal Pande.
He, however, declined to give the number of those detained in the nationwide crackdown on the radical Islamic forum.
India estimates that SIMI has some 20,000 dedicated members and hundreds of thousands of sympathizers.
A Lucknow city police spokesman said that five people had been killed and added that an indefinite curfew had been imposed in parts of the city after police put down protests over the arrest of three local SIMI leaders.
Thousands of people poured out on the streets and clashed with the police immediately after the leaders were detained earlier Thursday.
"It was becoming very difficult to control the crowd and so the police had to open fire," said Lucknow's deputy police chief A.K. Mitra.
The protesters had hurled bricks and forced shops to close, prompting police to open fire with rifles at followers of the radical group.
Two others were injured in the firing in Lucknow, the provincial capital of Uttar Pradesh state, home to a vast chunk of India's 120 million Muslims.
Hundreds of personnel from the Rapid Action Force paramilitary force were deployed in Lucknow as police were issued with shoot-on-sight orders, officials said.
Official sources said that some of the SIMI followers were also plotting to bomb a passenger train in the western state of Maharashtra.
They said the SIMI was banned for two years following demands by the states of Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh to proscribe the group for its suspected links to recent sectarian violence in parts of India.
They also said police were also looking for SIMI's chief, Shahid Badr, who is wanted for sedition and other criminal charges.
Badr has attacked India for its offer of support to the United States' war against terrorism, they said, adding the radical Islamic leader recently hailed Saudi renegade Osama bin Laden as a "champion and true savior of Islam."
Bin Laden is the prime accused in the September 11 terror attacks in New York and Washington -- LUCKNOW, India (AFP)
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