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Police Kill Suspected Mastermind of India Pilgrim Blasts


Police in Indian-administered Kashmir have killed an Islamic militant suspected of being the mastermind behind bombings earlier this year in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi. He is the second person killed who was suspected of involvement in the March blasts, which killed 20 people and injured dozens.

Police say the suspect was killed in a fierce gun battle in Indian Kashmir near the de-facto border with Pakistan - where they believe he was trying to flee.

The slain man, Mohammed Zubair, was an Indian from the state of Uttar Pradesh, home to the Hindu holy city of Varanasi.

Three blasts rocked Varanasi on March 7 - two of them at the Sankatmochan temple - one of the most revered Hindu holy sites along the River Ganges. The third blast was at a railroad station. Twenty people were killed.

Officials say Zubair was a member of Harkat-ul Jihad Islami - a Bangladeshi extremist organization.

In March, the Bangladeshi government won international praise for capturing leaders of extremist group who had spent years on the run.

Authorities first arrested Shayek Abdur Rahman, the head of the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh, or J.M.B. Four days later, they arrested Siddikul Islam Bangla Bhai, leader of the Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh, or J.M.J.B. Both groups are outlawed.

Ajay Sahni is an analyst with the New Delhi-based think-tank, the Institute of Conflict Management. He says those arrests will do nothing to stop Bangladeshi extremist groups from exporting terror.

"In all these arrests you have seen, you do not seen any mention of the Harkat-ul Jihad Islami - which is the principle Islamist extremist group which seeks power projection internationally," he said. "Whereas the J.M.B. and the J.M.J.B. are groups that may have a broad pan-Islamic ideological orientation, but their principle objective is to secure an Islamic Bangladesh."

In addition to Zubair's Bangladeshi group, a Pakistan-based organization, Lashkar-e-Taiba, is also expected of involvement in the Varanasi attack. In March, police shot dead another suspect in the Varanasi bombings, in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh. They say he was a member of Lashkar-e-Taiba.

In another encounter, local media report that police in India's capital Delhi shot a terror suspect late Monday at a cricket stadium. Two others were arrested at a train station. All three are suspected of being members of Lashkar-e-Taiba.

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