Indian police crack down on Islamic group
By Suhasini Haidar
NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- Indian police Friday continued a crackdown on members of the Students Islamic Movement of India, arresting the group's president, Sahid Badr.
The latest developments came after the Indian government banned the organization, a move that sparked riots in Uttar Pradesh that left four people dead.
The Indian Interior Ministry said the group was being banned because of its links to al Qaeda and other pan-Islamic movements.
The Indian government said the group is also linked to terrorist organizations in Kashmir, and has promoted "communal tensions" in India in the wake of the September 11 attacks on America.
An Indian official also said Friday that SIMI had come to the government's notice recently for "eulogizing Osama bin Laden and his ideology."
On Thursday, thousands of protestors took to the streets in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh to protest the ban. Vehicles were burned and the mobs threw stones at policemen. When the protests turned violent, police officials say they had to open fire in retaliation, killing four.
A curfew was imposed in Lucknow, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's constituency, and police have been told to shoot rioters on sight.
It is the first report of violence in India since the September 11 attacks on the United States. India has a population of more than 120 million Muslims, the second largest population of Muslims anywhere. Officials say that SIMI was working towards "an International Islamic order" and drew inspiration from the Taliban government in Afghanistan.
They also say that it was necessary to ban SIMI to prevent it from inciting further violence in the country. The ban comes under the Indian Prevention of Unlawful Activities Act.
SIMI has an estimated membership of 20,000. The Indian government has sealed off all its offices in seven states, and has arrested hundreds of people suspected to being members.
In statement Friday, one SIMI leader said that SIMI's agenda was "only Islam," and accused the Vajpayee government of imposing the ban under pressure from right-wing Hindu groups.
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