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Last Updated: Monday, 20 June, 2005, 15:37 GMT 16:37 UK
Sikh militant cells 'neutralised'
By Asit Jolly
BBC News, Chandigarh

Sikhs alongside picture of dead militant Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale
Police say a resumption of the separatist struggle is unlikely
Police in the Indian state of Punjab say they have "neutralised" Sikh separatist militants who had recently become active in the state.

The state's police chief said an operation to counter the militants was launched following two cinema bomb attacks in Delhi last month.

He said there had been an attempt to revive Sikh militancy in Punjab.

But he said the revival was "checked" by timely police action which led to the arrests of about 24 people.

'New recruits'

Mr Virk said investigations into the Delhi cinema bomb attacks in May led the Punjab police to several new Sikh militant cells.

The blasts took place during the screening of a Hindi film - "Jo Bole So Nihaal" or Blessed is the One - considered offensive by some Sikhs.

Damage to the Liberty cinema in Delhi, India
The cinema blasts occurred within minutes of each other

One person was killed and 49 were wounded in the attacks.

Mr Virk said nearly 24 men and women, suspected of being Sikh militants, had been arrested in state-wide police raids which followed.

The police chief said those arrested belonged to Babbar Khalsa - one of the most prominent and most violent militant groups in the Sikh separatist movement which reached its peak in the 1980s.

He said all the accused - except for the group's alleged chief, Jagtar Singh Hawara - were fresh "recruits", lured into militancy by promises of huge money and emigration to Western countries.

Mr Virk said many of those arrested "surprisingly" were Hindus, educated and "technologically savvy".

Explosives

The police chief claimed that many of the accused were given weapons and explosives training in neighbouring Pakistan, but he said the level of support they got from across the border was very limited.

Mr Virk said police also recovered nearly 40kg of explosives along with detonators and electronic timers during the operation.

He ruled out the possibility of a full-scale resumption of Sikh militancy in Punjab, although there had been a "concerted effort" to reactivate Sikh separatist groups such as the Babbar Khalsa.



SEE ALSO:
Wanted Sikh held over Delhi bombs
08 Jun 05 |  South Asia
Why Sikh row dogs Bollywood film
23 May 05 |  South Asia
In pictures: Delhi cinema blasts
23 May 05 |  In Pictures
One killed in India cinema blasts
22 May 05 |  South Asia
Theatre ends play in Sikh protest
20 Dec 04 |  West Midlands
Manhunt after Punjab jailbreak
22 Jan 04 |  South Asia


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