Kochi: The NIA has been in Kerala for a week looking for five people alleged to have direct links to the Al Qaeda unit in Pakistan. It has managed to arrest three of them and is searching for the remaining two.
Murshid Hassan, Yakoob Bishwas and Morshraf Hussien, all three residents of Ernakulam, were among the nine people arrested by the NIA on Saturday after it busted an inter-state terror model of al Qaeda. The six others were arrested in Murshidabad in West Bengal.
According to the NIA, all the three arrested from Ernakulam are foreign nationals who had infiltrated into India through the Bengal border. The three men were involved in raising funds for the south Indian module of al Qaeda founded by Osama bin Laden.
Tip-off received a month ago
About a month ago, the Union home ministry received information that a terrorist attack was being planned on strategic locations, including the Kochi Naval Base and the shipyard.
In addition to this, there are indications that the arrested people were planning to carry out bomb blasts in public places as well.
Al Qaeda's name was first heard in Kerala in the case of the hijacking and burning of a Tamil Nadu bus on the night of September 9, 2005, demanding the release of Abdul Nazer Mahdani who was then in jail in connection with the Coimbatore bomb blasts of 1998.
The anti-terrorist squad (ATS), which initially investigated the case, said that the main accused in the case, Thadiyantavide Naseer, was the “commander” of al Qaeda's south Indian module. But an in-depth investigation into the crime, which took place before the NIA was formed, could not be done. The case was later taken over by the NIA, but it found no evidence of al Qaeda’s links.
The Panayikkulam SIMI camp case, Kozhikode twin blasts, Vagamon weapons training case and the Kanakamala case were all said to be have terror links, but this is the first arrests in Kerala on terrorism charges.
Workers’ camps used as hiding place
This is not the first instance of those connected to terror groups making the guest workers’ camps in Ernakulam district their hiding place.
On December 7, 2007, Mallaraja Reddy, a native of Karimnagar in Andhra Pradesh with connection to Maoists groups, who had been evading security forces, and his gang were arrested from Angamaly.