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Monday, May 20, 2024

Mangaluru bomb blast IS terrorist Md. Shariq had jumped bail, Kerala connections being investigated

On Sunday, Karnataka Director General of Police (DGP) Praveen Sood revealed that the explosion in Mangaluru was an act of terror and that a detailed investigation was ongoing. He said that Karnataka State Police is probing deep into it along with central agencies. Karnataka ADGP Alok Kumar, who inspected the blast site in Mangaluru, confirmed that the main accused, Mohammed Shariq (24), had IS (Islamic state aka ISIS) connections. 

Shariq was behind the blast on an auto-rickshaw in Mangaluru city while Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai was visiting the district. He hails from Shivamogga district in Karnataka. and was arrested in 2020 under UAPA in a terrorism case and released on bail, which he jumped. He was also absconding in a terror case from September. He had stolen the Aadhar card of a Hindu man to carry out his terror activity undetected.

The special investigation team suspect that Shariq had planned blasts in Kerala and Tamil Nadu as well and that he reached Aluva on several occasions. Situated between the notorious terror hub of Perumbavoor and Ernakulam, Aluva has a history of anti-national activities. Following Shariq’s confession, the anti-terrorist squad of the Kerala Police also started an investigation.

Central intelligence agencies on Monday carried out searches in specific locations of Aluva. Shariq confessed that he procured the online consignment through Amazon while staying in Aluva in the second week of September. Investigators suspect that terrorist sympathizers in Aluva may have helped Shariq procure the raw materials needed to assemble explosives. 

Officials are gathering information from Aluva’s internet supply companies. It is suspected that the terrorist traveled to Aluva thrice this year, twice from Coimbatore and once from Mangaluru. Detectives are tracking individuals with a history of supporting such radical elements. A senior Kerala anti-terrorism officer said they would collect and share all information with the Karnataka police and central agencies.

A hardened terrorist at age 24

Inspired by the activities of the Islamic State, Shariq used to communicate with his terrorist associates through the dark web. It is also reported that the terrorist and his accomplices conducted secret camps in deserted places near Shivamogga and practiced detonations. ADGP Alok Kumar informed that ‘test blasts’ was carried out on September 19.

Readers might remember that an IS module was busted in September, in which two arrested engineers (Maaz Ahmed and Syed Yasin) confessed to having carried out 17 test explosions on the banks of Tungabhadra River in Hale Gurupura region of Shivamogga. Investigators had found back then that the tech-savvy terrorists were in touch with a staggering 100+ persons using a new messaging app called WireApp. Shariq was the one who radicalized Maaz and Syed – he had been reported absconding in September.

Shariq used to send them PDF files, audio and video files, and links related to extremism, radicalisation, and the work of IS and other terror outfits through various encrypted messenger apps. He also had links with Mateen Ahmed Taha, who is said to be a member of ‘Al Hind ISIS’, which manages the terror outfit’s activities in Karnataka. 

In 2020, Shariq and Maaz were arrested for painting pro-terror graffiti on a wall in Mangaluru.

Investigators also say that the  IED used in the Mangaluru auto-rickshaw blast is similar in structure to devices used by a terror group called the ‘Base Movement’. The name bears similarity to al-Qaeda, which in Arabic means “the Base”.

The ‘Base Movement’ carried out a series of blasts in court complexes in Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh in 2016. Five members of the Base Movement were arrested from Tamil Nadu at the end of 2016 for these blasts in a joint operation by the NIA and the police from Andhra Pradesh and other states. They were found to have links to proscribed Al-Ummah and the PFI.

Shariq’s use of fake Hindu identity busted

On Saturday, November 19, Shariq got into an autorickshaw at Mangalore central Railway station and asked the driver to go to Pumpwell circle, one of the busiest junctions in Mangaluru. This is when the IED went off accidentally around 4.30 pm. The driver informed the police that the explosion occurred due to a fire from the object in the passenger’s bag. Nearby CCTV cameras captured footage of the blast.

An Aadhar card of Indian Railway employee Premraj Hutagi was found from Shariq – Police has now confirmed that Premraj was a victim of identity theft.

Remains of a pressure cooker were found near the rickshaw. Some parts of the autorickshaw suffered damage in the explosion. The terrorist and the unsuspecting auto driver were seriously injured in the blast. They cried for help, and locals rushed to their rescue. Both are alive and are undergoing treatment for severe burns. Shariq has been detained under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Police escorted a few hijab-clad persons to the hospital to confirm the identity of the bomber.

An Aadhar card found on his person after the blast belonged to Premraj Hutagi, a railway track maintainer and gateman from Hubbali, Karnataka. When contacted, Premraj informed the police that he had lost the Aadhar card while traveling on a bus. Shariq stole this ID card and used it to fake a Hindu identity. The terrorist also rented a flat in Mysuru using the same fake identity. 

When local police questioned him, Shariq gave contradictory and vague answers. According to officials, he spoke only in Hindi, claimed to be from Mysuru, and gave his brother’s phone number to the police. The official added that the person who took the call said he did not know the terrorist.

Doctors also found that Shariq had undergone circumcision. This gave away his fake Hindu identity to a large extent. Police then contacted Premraj’s father, whose Aadhaar card was found from the suspect, and he confirmed that his son works in the Railways and confirmed the identity theft. While Muslims in the region speak Tulu or Byari, Premraj’s father conversed in Kannada. This alerted the police and exposed Shariq’s lies. In reality, Shariq had lost his father a long time ago.

It could also have been the reason why Shariq used Hindi. Karnataka DGP himself confirmed that Premraj was a victim of identity theft. He added that the railway employee had nothing to do with the Mangaluru blast case. 

Until 2014, such details of identity theft might well have seen suppressed to push the ‘saffron Terror’ narrative. Suspiciously, this dangerous modus operandi of using Hindu names to avoid suspicion is on the rise among terrorists and even ordinary Muslim youth looking to groom Hindu girls for sex and marriage. As our state has been found wanting in effectively punishing such cases of identity theft, it is up to Hindu society to work out solutions that create deterrence.

During a raid at his rented house, the police found many documents about Islamic extremism. As the inquiry into the Mangaluru bomb case widened, the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) team arrived at the property rented by Shariq in Mysuru on Sunday. 

Gelatin sticks, relay circuit boards, small bolts, batteries, aluminum multimeters, wires, mixing jars, pressure cookers, and other materials used to build explosives were among the items the FSL team found. Explosives were packed and stored separately. The pressure cookers were all ready to go and filled with explosives. The investigators also found one mobile phone, two phony Adhaar cards, and a fake pan card. Detectives concluded that the terrorist was assembling explosive devices at this residence.

Since the terrorism angle has been confirmed, the National Investigation Agency will handle the inquiry. NIA officers have done a preliminary study and are on the scene in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala.

Links with Coimbatore blast accused?

On October 23, an LPG cylinder being loaded into a car exploded, killing a 25-year-old man near Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. Notably, the incident was initially thought to be a straightforward cylinder blast case but was later shown to involve terrorism, and the case was handed over to the NIA. People at the spot who saw the car go up in flames said that they saw nails, marbles, and sharp objects around the blast area. A terrorist and resident of Ukkadam, Jamesha Mubeen, was charred to death in the explosion.

Mubeen had links with Mohammed Azharuddin, who is locked up in prison in Kerala for his association with ISIS. Mubin was a close associate of Azharuddin, and NIA had investigated the former based on this. Azharuddin was one of the people in contact with the Easter bombings master mind Zahran Hashim. They were also allegedly taking orders from the Islamic State. Shariq had visited Coimbatore on several occasions. Police suspect that Shariq had links with those who had carried out this car blast in Coimbatore ahead of Deepavali.

Mubin had been questioned and freed by NIA in 2019, and subsequently placed in ‘watchlist’ of Tamil Nadu Police. It is evident that TN police failed to surveil him properly, and citizens had a luck escape.

History of Terrorism

It is important to remember that Mohammed Shariq was previously charged for spray-painting jihadi graffiti on the walls of Mangaluru in late 2020. While the rest of us were stuck at home, terrorists were having a field day. Like now, back then, too, he was charged under the stringent UAPA rules. It is clear that back then, the investigators, prosecution, and the judge made a huge mistake when they granted Shariq bail on ‘technical grounds’, albeit with conditions that Shariq easily evaded.

This misplaced benevolence and weakness of our criminal justice system has already cost us dearly in the past, and in Shariq’s case too we had another narrow escape – the toll from both the Coimbatore and Mangaluru blasts could have been considerably higher had fate not intervened.

Sharif’s graffiti messages in 2020 were pretty straightforward. “Gustaak e Rasool ki ek hi saza. Sar Tan Say Juda,” shouted one. “Do not force us to invite Lashkar-e-Toiba and Taliban to deal with Sanghis and Manvedis (Marwaris or Manuwadis?). Lashkar Zindabad,” said the other.

Left-liberal-Islamist ecosystem

In court, Shariq is represented by Bangaluru-based lawyer Mohammed Sultan Beary (Byari). Adv Byari has a habit of helping radicalized youth accused of terrorist links. That includes the likes of the infamous Homeopath Dr. Syed Ismail Afaq (Indian Mujahideen (IM) Module) in 2015. The terrorist was arrested with a massive cache of bomb-making material and communication devices. 

Afaq was married to a Pakistani national and charged with supplying explosives across Bharat. The same media that quickly repeated Byari’s allegations that the NIA had ‘framed’ Afaq observed total silence when the truth came out. The Afaq gang remained unnoticed for several years since they took orders directly from Pakistan.

Both Afaq and Byari are from the same Bhatkal region in south Karnataka. Suspiciously, IM kingpin Riyas Bhatkal is believed to be hiding in Karachi and conducting operations in Bharat with help from Bharatiya locals, Pakistan’s ISI, and the Lashkar-e-Taiba. In short, many anti-nationals are initially from the same region in south Karnataka.

Byaris are concentrated along the southwest coast of Mangaluru. They are an ethnic group of Indian Muslims with their own identity that they share with the Moplahs of Malabar. They are the ancient traders of the region.

According to the census of 1891, Dakshina Kannada had 92,449 businessmen consisting of 90,345 Byaris, 2,104 Nawayaths (Konkani Muslims), and 2,551 non-Muslims. Records prove that, towards the end of the 19th century, the percentage of Muslim traders in the region was as high as 97.3%, which continues even today. The situation is the same in the Malabar region of north Kerala. 

Allegedly, they are the ones who control the economy and sponsor foot soldiers like Shariq. Though it does not mean that all Byaris or Moplahs are extremists, security agencies rarely investigate this angle or the highly radicalized ones. Incidentally, the ‘hijab row’ spread across Bharat has roots in this same region of coastal Karnataka. Fundamentally, it arose when local Hindus decided to boycott shops and establishments owned by radical Islamists. Naturally, Byaris hate Marwaris and have used the radicalized Muslim society to insult and hurt them.  

Shariq’s father, Hashim, was a cloth merchant from Thirthahalli in Shivamogga, and Shariq followed in his footsteps. After losing his father and mother, Shariq lived with his stepmother (his father’s second wife) and her son. He joined the extremist outfit through his links with Mateen, an Al Hind IS module member who has been absconding since 2020. Sources claimed Mateen was highly radicalized and reportedly recruited vulnerable youth like Shariq for terror activities.

Following the arrest of top Popular Front of India (PFI) terrorists, it is feared that several sleeper cells have been activated all across south Bharat. Elders suggested that we stay alert, keep an eye on new tenants, social media posts, abandoned bags, suspicious cars, etc. and raise the alarm if we find any suspected behavior. The question is, who do we approach in ‘secular’ states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu?

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  1. “In the Radha Chawl (mumbai) case, the people responsible for the massacre of innocent Hindus were let off by the High Court. How is that, in Baroda Best Bakery case, the supreme Court overzealous in asking the whole case to be transferred out of Gujarat ? Are Muslims more equal than Hindus before law?” ” P. Deivamuthu. -2006.


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