Bangalore, July 30, 2013: It was the probe by the City police into the April 17 Malleswaram blast which first suggested the possible involvement of a local jihadi module in Tamil Nadu in the targeted killing of right-wing Hindu leaders.
A senior police officer, who arrested some of the suspects, said the module was active in Tirunelveli, Coimbatore and Vellore districts — “hotbeds” of Muslim fundamentalist groups a decade ago. Their sway was so “strong” in the districts that even the police personnel struggled to make arrests, the officer added.
Interestingly, the suspects in the Malleswaram blast and the murders of BJP leaders in Tamil Nadu are alleged to be involved in previous acts of terror. Investigators also claimed the suspects were active members of the now proscribed group Al-Ummah.
Kichan Buhari, arrested by the City police in connection with the Malleswaram blasts, was an accused in the 1998 Coimbatore bombings that targeted an election rally of BJP leader L K Advani. Panna Ismail, the suspected leader of the module, was convicted of complicity in the Coimbatore blasts case. He is also an accused in many other terror cases, besides a few murders.
Tamil Nadu police suggest that all the four absconding suspects are involved in the planting of a pipe bomb in Thirumangalam in 2011. Intelligence sleuths said the two-year-old case should have raised alarm about a possible “regroup” bid by remnants of the many Muslim fundamentalist organisations in Tamil Nadu, including Al-Ummah, that were active in the 1990s, but later thought to have been dismantled.
Top intelligence officers are certain that a terror module has “regrouped and resurfaced” from the remnants of the previous organisations in Tamil Nadu as well as in Karnataka.
A top intelligence officer said on condition of anonymity that the module in question had not been busted fully. It continues to be in “a very active mode, carrying out strikes at will”. It was high time the leaders of the new module were identified and apprehended, the officer added. If unchecked, it would wreak “further havoc” in the region.
According to the officer, the module did exist, but chose to remain unnamed. It also strangely refrained from claiming responsibility for any attacks it carried out. It could be a new strategy of the organisation, he maintained.
Old local terror outfits, such as Darsgah-e-Jihad-o-Shahadat and Tehreek Tahffuz-e-Shuaer-e-Islam, also appeared to be regrouping in South India, the officer explained.