NIA office. Photo: Mathrubhumi
New Delhi: In a major crackdown against alleged ISIS sympathisers, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) early Wednesday morning started raids at multiple locations across Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in two separate blast cases under investigation, sources said.
According to sources in the elite anti-terror probe agency, the searches are being conducted in connection with last year's blasts in Tamil Nadu's Coimbatore and Karnataka's Mangaluru which occurred on October 23, 2022, and November 19, 2022, respectively.
Sources said that nearly five dozen locations across the three states were raided simultaneously, including those Kodungaiyur in Tamil Nadu and Mannadi in Kerala.
The NIA began a probe on October 27 last year in a bomb blast in a car laden with explosives in front of Kottai Eswaran Temple of Coimbatore district in Tamil Nadu on October 23, last year.
Eleven accused persons were arrested earlier by the anti-terror agency in the case in which Tamil Nadu Police initially registered a complaint on October 23 last year.
The deceased accused, Jamesha Mubeen, after swearing bayath (allegiance) to ISIS was planning to carry out a suicide attack and cause extensive damage to the Temple Complex with the intention to strike terror in the community, said the NIA in a statement.
"Investigations have revealed that the accused persons had entered into a criminal conspiracy in the interior of forested regions of Asanoor and Kadambur areas of Sathyamangalam forest, Erode district, in February, 2022," the NIA stated.
"The meetings were led by previously arrested accused Umar Farook and participated by deceased accused Jamesha Mubeen, Mohammed Azharudin, Sheikh Hidayatullah and Sanofar Ali, where they conspired to prepare for and execute terror acts," it added.
In December last year, the NIA took over the investigation into the November 19 pressure cooker blast in an auto rickshaw in Mangaluru wherein a passenger, identified as Mohammed Shariq, was carrying a pressure cooker bomb made from an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).
The auto-rickshaw exploded leading to injuries to the passenger, Mohammed Shariq, who was carrying a pressure cooker turned into an IED, and the auto-rickshaw driver.
The cooker bomb was designed to carry out a large-scale attack to fuel communal tensions in the coastal region and in the state, the agency said.
Shariq was en-route to a pre-decided location for carrying out the blast when the explosion took place.
The NIA started its investigation under the provision of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the investigating officers then questioned the main accused Shariq, as the state police found his links with the Islamic State (IS) during its investigation. It also learned that he had radicalised his schoolmates, Syed Yasin and Muneer Ahmed, and introduced them to IS as well, police said.
Together, the three of them had experimented and rehearsed the explosion on the banks of the Tunga river in the Shivamogga district, sources said, adding that the practice explosion was also reportedly successful.
Further, according to sources, the main accused, Shariq, had a handler who was orchestrating and instructing him regarding all these activities.