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Indian police arrest 9 linked to serial blasts

/ Source: The Associated Press

Police have arrested the alleged mastermind of serial bombings last month in western India that killed 58 people and have linked him to a banned Islamic group, an official said Saturday.

Police also arrested eight other men who were described as members of the Students' Islamic Movement of India, a group that was banned in 2001 and has been blamed for a wave of bomb attacks across India in the last three years.

"We believe that the network of SIMI was behind the blasts," senior police official P.C. Pande told reporters in Ahmadabad, the capital of Gujarat state and the site of last month's bombings.

Pande said police arrested the alleged leader of the bomb plot, Mufti Abu Bashir, in the northern Indian city of Lucknow on Saturday. He declined to describe what evidence police had against Bashir and the other men.

"Today is a big day for the Gujarat police who have been able to crack the Ahmadabad blasts case," the Press Trust of India quoted him as saying.

Police nearly always blame bombings on Islamic militants who allegedly want to provoke violence between India's Hindu majority and Muslim minority, but officials rarely offer hard evidence implicating specific groups.

Earlier this month, an Indian court lifted the ban on SIMI, saying the government had been unable to supply any new evidence of illegal activities. The next day, the Supreme Court reversed the decision, saying the ban would stay in place until it could consider further evidence to be presented by the government within three weeks.