Karnataka police has intensified its probe into the Mangaluru terror blast on November 19, and has sent special teams to Coimbatore, Kochi and Bengaluru to track and trace those involved. Central agencies like the NIA have given a boost to the investigation, and it will take a couple of days to decide if the case was being handed over to the counter-terrorist task force, said home minister Araga Jnanendra.
The minister said it was imperative to trace and track possible handlers and terror groups that were radicalising young impressionable minds to recruit them. The use of easily available technology was also a major aspect of the case, as the alleged bomber Shariq underwent a 45-day course in mobile phone system repair in Mysuru, the minister added.
Jnanendra and director general of police Praveen Sood inspected the blast site on Wednesday to take stock of how far the investigation had progressed. The minister said there were no arrests in the case so far, but four suspects were being questioned for their role. The main accused tried misleading the investigation by using Hindu names, he said. “He kept changing his location and using Hindu names to make it difficult to trace him,” he added.
According to investigators, a detailed analysis of Shariq’s phone showed that he had created a fake WhatsApp group and used a photo of ‘Adi Yogi’ – Isha Foundation’s Shiva statue – in the display picture to hide his true identity.
Probe into new mode of communication between terror groups
Police are on the path to uncovering the funding source of the blast and the involvement of any terror organisation. Jnanendra said terror groups did not use mobile phones to communicate with each other but had devised a new mode to keep in touch.
“It needs to be thoroughly probed. Police are looking into funding, the main players, and group affiliations of the accused. We cannot reveal much as it is crucial to the investigation,” said DGP Sood. An officer, who is part of the probe, said intelligence inputs from agencies in neighbouring Tamil Nadu as well as Kerala, and specific links to the Coimbatore blasts were being shared to crack the case as soon as possible.
“The accused has visited Kanyakumari, Coimbatore, Nagercoil, Kerala and several places; police are tracking his movements in the last few months to find out more about the terror plot,” the minister said.
He added: “The bomb in the autorickshaw exploded accidentally but if it had exploded in the intended place such as a busy market area, it would have been a huge loss. We are digging deep into who found the accused and if he has been involved in any terror acts earlier. We will crack all links connected to this case and root out these terrorists.”
The home minister spoke of the need for a special NIA team in Karnataka, especially in the southern region that has been termed a “terror hub” due to the surge in terrorism and related activities. He said the Centre had been apprised of the need for an NIA office either in Mangaluru or Bengaluru.
“The central government seems positive towards the idea. In a couple of days, it will be decided if the case is being handed over to the NIA,” he added.
Mobile phone training in Mysuru
On how young boys like Shariq had been pulled into terror-related activities and were highly radicalised, the minister talked about tracing down possible handlers or terror groups involved in recruiting young impressionable minds.
“Shariq is from Teerthahalli and also went to Mysuru to train in mobile phones and other specialised electronic gadgets,” said the minister, adding that Shariq had undertaken a short course in mobile phone system repair and assembling.
Police sources told News18 that though erratic, Shariq had enrolled in the 45-day course in Mysuru using a fake identity. He used the stolen Aadhaar card of railway employee Premraj Hutagi, who lost his a few months ago while travelling in a bus. The institute Shariq went to imparted training in repairing computer hardware, mobile phones and other gadgets. After attending theoretical classes for around 15 days and a week of practical sessions later, Shariq dropped out.
Shariq suffered 45 per cent burns in the pressure cooker blast. The cooking device he was carrying was laden with explosives and prematurely exploded. The accused is yet to recover and speak to interrogators.
“He is an important asset and we have to ensure he is alive. We are providing him with treatment. In burn injuries, the chance of infection is high that may even lead to death. We want to ensure that he gets proper medical care and is ready for questioning. We have a lot of evidence and need to confront him with it,” Sood told News18.
Chief minister Basavaraj Bommai said his government had taken the Mangaluru blast seriously and 18 sleeper terror cells were under surveillance.
Treatment of the other victim – the autorickshaw driver
Unaware of the fact that he was transporting a person carrying an explosive-laden pressure cooker in his backpack, autorickshaw driver Purushottam Poojary also suffered burn injuries in the blast and is receiving the best treatment.
“Our government will take care of all of his medical expenses and provide economic support to his family,” Jnanendra said.
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