JAIPUR: The Rajasthan police have launched a crackdown on suspected persons across the State in the wake of the breakthrough claimed in the Ahmedabad blasts case. A dozen people were picked up from various towns for questioning to ascertain their role in the May 13 blasts here.

The Special Investigation Team (SIT), believing that the terror strikes here and in Ahmedabad were inter-linked, is concentrating on the contacts of alleged mastermind Abul Bashar Qasmi and Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) leader Sajid Mansuri in Rajasthan.

Policemen, who went to detain three persons, including two former SIMI members, in Baran on Saturday night faced resistance from the local people, who laid a siege to the Kotwali police station. The policemen had to do some explaining to the 250-strong crowd and ended up bringing in the neighbours too along with the detainees.

Those picked up in Baran were Wasim Ahmed (44), a scrap dealer; Abid Hussain (43), a cloth merchant; and Riyaz Ahmed (25), owner of a grocery shop. Baran District Waqf Committee chairman Majid Salim, a prominent Muslim leader of the town, was among those who insisted on accompanying the three persons to Jaipur.

Mr. Salim said Ahmed and Hussain were members of the SIMI over a decade ago when the outfit was not banned. About half-a-dozen friends and relatives, who reluctantly left the three persons in the SIT’s custody, affirmed that their past association with the SIMI could not be used to link them to the Jaipur or Ahmedabad bombings.

The SIT – reportedly acting on the basis of leads provided by Sajid Mansuri, former SIMI zonal secretary in Gujarat, after his recent arrest – also picked up four persons in Kota on early Sunday morning. Police suspect that Sajid Mansuri stayed in the houses of two of them after escaping from Surat following the raid on a controversial meeting of SIMI in 2001.
Those detained in Kota were Ishaq (65), his son Taufiq (25), Alauddin (48) and Nazahat (30). The Rajasthan Muslim Forum has called their relatives here to demand an explanation from the SIT on their detention.

Police also picked up Abrar Ahmed, a medical graduate doing internship in the Sawai Man Singh Medical College, from the college hostel here, and his colleague Anwar Hussain from his native place, Niwai, in Tonk district.

According to the SIT, Sajid Mansuri knew them well and stayed in their hostel room several times during his visit to Jaipur. The Gujarat police also affirmed that Sajid Mansuri and his men were here when the bombs were planted.

ADGP (Crime) A.K. Jain told The Hindu that the SIT was only carrying out a “routine interrogation.” It could not be termed a crackdown on a community.