London/Hyderabad, Dec 14: An underground network of Islamic extremists has recruited a new generation of Indian-born terrorists by exploiting sectarian tensions in Hyderabad. Indian authorities have denied that there is a homegrown terrorist threat to the country, instead blaming Pakistan for allowing Islamist attacks including the atrocities in Mumbai to be launched across its borders.
The Sunday Telegraph has learned that scores of young Muslim men have disappeared from Hyderabad, suspected of leaving for Pakistan to be trained by the country's Islamist terror groups. As many as 40 potential recruits are reported to have left the city - which has a large Muslim minority - under extremist guidance, while many other young men cannot be traced.
Police efforts to track the youths have floundered in the wake of the Mumbai attacks last month.
A wall of community silence has protected the activities of teachers and other shadowy figures working inside fundamentalist Islamic schools and mosques.
"We have tried to establish where the city's youth has gone but we don't know," the paper quoted Hyderabad Police Commissioner Prasada Rao, as saying.
Two Islamic movements based in Hyderabad -- the Darsgah Jihad-o-Shahadath (DJS) and the Tahreek Tahfooz Shaer-e-Islam (TTSI), have been accused by local police of allegedly acting as "feeder" groups for militants seeking to recruit armed fighters. They have denied the allegations.
Members of a third local group, the Students Islamic Movement of India - which has been banned by the government - carried out a gun attack on police just days after the Mumbai attacks.
Extensive surveillance operations and intelligence investigations have failed to penetrate the inner workings of Hyderabad's radicals, officials admitted.
Officials at the DJS madrassahs - religious schools - in Hyderabad were not willing to discuss the disappearance of the city's young men.
While there is no suggestion that the organisation orchestrates terrorist acts, the DJS carries a message on its website that is explicit about the right of Muslims to resort to violence.
"The DJS has trained and are training thousands of Muslim youths to defend themselves and to help, protect and defend the other Muslims," it states, before adding that once trained in "self defence" members can leave to join any other Muslim group.
According to the paper, the atmosphere in Hyderabad's alleys and markets leading from its Raj-era square is marked by mutual loathing and suspicion between Muslim and Hindu sects.
"Deprivation in the predominantly Muslim old city is palpable... The circumstances for Muslims have changed for the worse in the 60 years of India's independence," said Judge E. Ismail of the provincial Human Rights Commission."