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Pune: SIMI members up from 48 to 300 in just a month

Aug 20, 2008 09:35 AM IST India India

Pune: Saira Khan lost her first son Feroze Yusuf Khan in an encounter by the Mumbai Police. Now her younger son, Ayaaz Khan has also been detained by the Mumbai Anti-Terrorism Squad for alleged involvement in the Ahmedabad blasts case and links with Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).

He was earlier arrested by Pune Police for running a fake currency racket. Though Saira believes her sons are innocent, she now has to live under the constant vigil of police and neighbors.

She says, "Is tarha se pareshaan hain. Woh ladka jo kaam pe jata tha use feel hota tha ki main sab kuch nahin karte hue bhi yeh jhel raha hun." ("We are very worried. My younger son is upset that even though he is not involved, he has to contend with all these things.")

Both Aayaz and Feroze lived in the Bhimpura area, located in the heart of Pune. Early last week, Mumbai's ATS picked up Nadeem Sheikh for questioning in the Ahmedabad blasts case, from another prime location in the city.

According to Pune Police, there is a bigger reason to worry - SIMI may have as many as 300 members in Pune.

In the last five years, the Pune Police has found SIMI's trail in many terrorist attacks:

  • In July 2006, the state ATS arrested Sohail Shaikh in connection with the 7/11 Mumbai blasts. He was suspected to have links with SIMI and was a resident of Bhimpura.

  • Rizwan Dhawre, a resident of Pune is also a suspect in the 7/11 Mumbai blasts case. He too is said to have links with SIMI and LeT.

  • In May 2003, Anwar Ali, an Urdu research scholar and a visiting faculty at the National Defence Academy was arrested for links in the Mulund bomb blasts. He allegedly provided shelter to SIMI activists in Pune.

With the rising number of connections between the city youth and the banned SIMI, Pune Police is now on the look out for sleeper cells that are said to be training these members.