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India Muslim Cleric Backs Taliban

India Muslim Cleric Backs Taliban

Author: Rajesh Mahapatra, Associated Press Writer
Publication: The Associated Press
Date: November 9, 2001

NEW DELHI, India (AP) - The chief Muslim cleric in New Delhi said Friday that he supports the Taliban, and called the U.S.-led airstrikes on Afghanistan (news - web sites) an attack on Islam.

''Today I support the jihad,'' or holy war, declared by Taliban leader Mullah Omar, said Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari, head cleric of Jama Masjid mosque.

''The target of America and its allies is not Afghanistan ... but Islam,'' he told thousands of Muslims who gathered for Friday prayers.

India has about 140 million Muslims, making it home to the world's second-largest Muslim community.

In Srinagar, the summer capital of India's only majority Muslim state, Jammu-Kashmir (news - web sites), shopkeepers shut their doors in solidarity with a pro- Taliban strike Friday in Pakistan.

Some protesters threw stones and clashed with police in downtown Srinagar after Friday prayers. Police lobbed tear gas shells to push back protesters.

Twenty-one people were injured in Srinagar and Baramullah, 40 miles to the north, authorities said.

Bukhari, the cleric, said he did not regret the deaths of thousands in the Sept. 11 terror attacks in New York and Washington. The United States is leading a bombing campaign against the Taliban for harboring chief suspect Osama bin Laden (news - web sites).

''I have no regrets because for the last 50 years America and Israel have been bleeding the Muslims,'' Bukhari said. ''America should know what it means to lose close relatives, sons and brothers ... and how it feels to the tearful eyes of mothers and sisters.''

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