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'Cashgate money not from Bhopal'

SIMI quietly takes terror centrestage

Author: Times News Network
Publication: The Times of India
Date: July 31, 2008
URL: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/SIMI_quietly_takes_terror_centrestage/articleshow/3303754.cms

Introduction: Arrest of Leaders Hasn't Hampered Its Capabilities

For an organization that has emerged as the cat's paw of Pakistan's efforts to ''indigenize'' its covert operations in India, including terror strikes against civilian targets, not much is known about Students Islamic Movement of India's (SIMI's) networks and organizational bases.

With a strength of 20,000 foot soldiers or adherents, a section of SIMI's top leadership, including its general secretary and ideologue Safdar Nagori, was immobilized in an Indore raid in March. The arrests of Nagori and 10 aides were seen as a big blow to the outfit. Their grilling was expected to yield details on the 7/11 bombings.

But as the incidents in Bangalore and Ahmedabad establish, SIMI networks do not seem to have been significantly disrupted and their links with groups like HuJI are sufficiently intact to stage big strikes. As the arrests and interrogation of various SIMI members since 2001 have shown, several activists have travelled to Pakistan to receive terror training. SIMI's collaboration with an arm of the Bangladesh-based HuJI has been significant. Identified by the CIA as HuJI-B, the Bangladesh-based group has become a major agent for planning and staging attacks in India. From being foot soldiers providing local statistics, SIMI men are moving up the terror chain, increasingly involved in planning and execution.

Indian agencies have recently noted that Pakistan's dependence on SIMI is growing. The organization is part of the ISI plans to make jihad in India more local. This allows Pakistan to point to home-grown militants being India's ''responsibility'' and counter the charge that it is the font of terrorism in South Asia. These arguments are not likely to impress the international community as long as Pakistan's role in destabilizing Afghanistan is apparent, but it helps Islamabad deny links to terror groups.

SIMI has long been influenced by a vision of an Islamic state where there is unity of political and religious states. Nagori has held Osama bin Laden as the ideal ''mujahid''. Inspired by Maulana Maududi's vision of an Islamic state, SIMI remained wedded to the ''reinstatement'' of the Caliphate. It is ironic that Maududi himself died in Pakistan, frustrated at being unable to realize his vision of an Islamic state. It is no surprise that SIMI sees 9/11 as a Mossad plot. From a theological affiliation to the Deobandi school-many of its activists like members of Jamaat-i-Islami al-Hind are alumni of the famous seminary -the shift to violent jihad has been quite seamless. A widening circle of influence, funded by Saudi money, has seen SIMI develop foreign contacts. The HuJI launch pads are useful as retreats while targets are chosen by handlers in Pakistan. Sometimes there is an urgency as was evident before the 2005 Delhi blasts to stage a ''big show''.

SIMI's founder Mohammad Ahmadullah Siddiqi has claimed that SIMI ''has been hijacked by elements in other countries'' and is different than the group he established. But there's no denying that SIMI has been inspired by what it sees as Maududi's goal to make Islam the supreme principle for social, religious and political life. It has held a particular vision of the early Muslims as the ideal. It has advocated the revival of Islam in the light of its views of the Quran and Sunnah.

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