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New York City police disbands unit that watched Muslim communities

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Police Department has disbanded a controversial surveillance unit that targeted and monitored Muslim communities after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, a police statement said.

The unit was set up in 2003 but has been largely inactive since Police Commissioner William Bratton took over the department this January, and its detectives have been reassigned, a statement from the NYPD said on Tuesday.

The program deployed undercover detectives in Muslim neighborhoods to eavesdrop on conversations and watch day-to-day activities. Police also infiltrated mosques and student groups.

Mayor Bill de Blasio criticized the program when he was campaigning for office last fall, and it was the target of lawsuits.

"It has been determined that much of the same information previously gathered by the (Demographics Unit) may be obtained through direct outreach by the NYPD to the communities concerned," the police statement said.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)

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