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Are like-minded terror outfits joining forces in south India?

Last updated on: November 28, 2011 13:58 IST

Investigators have intercepted calls made from jails in India to Pakistan, which talk of creating a major force in south India and also of plans to carry out a deadly attack in Bangalore. Vicky Nanjappa reports.

Several incidents in the past couple of months have led investigators to believe that various terror outfits make be coming together to create trouble in south India. Officers from the Intelligence Bureau, National Investigating Agency and local police are now looking closely at this case.  

Investigators started probing deeper after they intercepted calls made to Pakistan from prisons in Kerala. There was also the incident where a bomb was found on the route that Bharatiya Janata Party leader L K Advani had taken during his recently concluded yatra.

This was followed by the police tracking calls being made from a Bangalore jail. The latest of these incidents was the arrest of a key Indian Mujahideen operative along with his associates from Chennai.

The arrest of these youngsters is probably the first concrete action taken by the investigating agencies after calls from the jails were intercepted. Investigators are now trying to connect the dots taking all the above mentioned incidents into account. Today they have found that terror groups are trying to combine with several like-minded outfits to create a formidable force in the south. What has been found so far is that outfits such as the Indian Mujahideen, Al-Badr and the Al-Umma are joining hands in order to carry out terror strikes.

Although the arrest of Mohammad Ishrath Khan has revealed that he was in the know of a conspiracy to carry out a terror strike in Bangalore, he, however, had no direct connection to this incident. Khan, who hails from Delhi, had come to Chennai to procure weapons which gave the police an indication that a terror strike was being planned in north India as well.

Interception of several phone calls from jails is what set the ball rolling. These calls were being made to Pakistan and also to places in Uttar Pradesh. Investigators, who are still studying the transcripts in detail, have found that the calls were about creating a major force in south India and also to carry out a deadly strike in Bangalore.

The Indian Mujahideen, which has its strongest presence in Karnataka, was trying to rope in both the Al-Umma and the Al-Badr, which are stronger in parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. All these outfits are ideologically similar and hence the coming together of these outfits is not a difficult.

Moreover, there has been a constant tussle to set up the network in Tamil Nadu. Barring a couple of incidents there has really not been much of activity in Tamil Nadu. Terror groups have only been testing the waters in Tamil Nadu so far and have gradually been building up their modules on a small scale.

During investigations police found out that terror outfits wanted to set up more modules in Tamil Nadu while they would continue to send in recruits from Karnataka to strengthen the base. Kerala, which has been considered to be a playground for these groups, would continue to be used to fund operations and also as a transit point for arms and ammunition.

The intercepted calls from jails will hold the key to these investigations. Apart from calls that were made by hawala operatives from jails in Kerala, the NIA has also been probing calls that were made from a jail in Bangalore. The NIA, apart from questioning two members, Mohammad Hussain and Fahad -- both of whom belong to the Al-Badr faction -- have also detained two other youngsters who were in regular contact with these men.

The IB says that Tamil Nadu is a state that one must watch out for. First it was the underworld that penetrated into this state and this was followed by terror groups. It has become a major drug transit point and also a place where fake currency is pumped in. The Al-Umma in particular has its roots in Tamil Nadu. This group which shot into the limelight post Babri Masjid has been planning several strikes in the state. However, there was a major crackdown on the outfit and it was weakened to a large extent. Today they are using the services of both the Indian Mujahideen and also the Al-Badr to improve their position in the region. The discovery of a bomb on Advani's yatra route is also being attributed to the Al-Umma.

The crackdown two days back at Chennai also goes on to show that these outfits have been targeting youth in colleges. In all the IB and the Tamil Nadu police picked up four persons, which include three engineering students and one MBA student. They were picked up along with their uncle who hails from Delhi. This is a cause for concern since penetration into colleges has always had a bad effect on national security.

The idea and motive is clear and they are forming a force with the help of educated youth so that attacks have more precision. The first wave of attacks carried out by the Indian Mujahideen had caused a lot of destruction and this was primarily to do with the fact that it had been planned to perfection by educated youth.

NIA sources say that investigations will take some more time to be completed. "We have a fair idea of what is being planned and it appears that they have intentionally used cell phones from jails to plan future operations as one usually does not suspect such operations being planned out of jails. It is clear that the message had come from Pakistan and on the basis of this some youths were sent to meet these terrorists in jail and were told to plan the operation from there," sources said.

Vicky Nanjappa in Bangalore