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Why coastal Karnataka blips on IB radar

Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru | October 14, 2008 12:46 IST
Last Updated: October 14, 2008 12:51 IST

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A few years ago, the moment the word terror was mentioned, one's mind easily shifted to Jammu and Kashmir [Images].

However over the years, this scenario has changed and it is not only the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir which is associated with terror. Sleeper cells and terror modules galore were being set up across the country and according to security agencies and intelligence bureau officials states like Uttar Pradesh [Images] had becoming a breeding ground for terror activities.

However, now one sees a complete shift and it is becoming more and more clear that the costal belts of the country, especially Mangalore, have become a hub for terror.

While states like Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra,  Bihar and Assam are constantly under the IB watch, security agencies are now saying that Karnataka is the state to watch out for.

Karnataka has over the past two years become one of the most important states where terror is concerned after terror outfits found this state a safe haven to regroup in.

Not only did SIMI [Images] have its most crucial meeting in North Karnataka, but the entire process of recruiting youth from the IT background began there.

While North Karnataka remained the terror hub for nearly a year, the focus has now shifted towards Mangalore.

So what makes coastal Karnataka a hot spot for terror? A senior Karnataka police official says terror operatives decided to shift operations to this belt largely due to the numerous underworld activities.

Mangalore has always followed the Mumbai module, he says. Mangalore,  being a port city, was the preferred destination for underworld dons.

The IB says that it is a well-established fact that terror operatives work closely with the underworld.

An IB official told that most of the underworld dons are holed up in Pakistan.

The ISI's directive to these persons is that they ought to help out in terror activities if they needed to hide in Pakistan. Help from the underworld would include sneaking in of arms and ammunition and counterfeit currency. Moreover, the money made through drug deals would have to be shared for terror operations. To cut a long story short, the ISI demands protection money from the underworld.

Coming back to Mangalore, the police say it has always been a hotbed for communal tension. Mangalore and other places in coastal Karnataka had seen violence in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition. To counter Hindu activists, outfits in Pakistan started to send out men to the coastal town. These persons did not immediately focus on terror activities. They coordinated more with the underworld, built up their base and for a long time only focused on creating communal tension, the police say.

It was around the same time that two men, Riaz and Iqbal Bhatkal, left to Pakistan and later returned to coastal Karnataka after undergoing training. The duo, based in Bhatkal also in coastal Karnataka, started to effect the change among Muslim youth in coastal Karnataka.

The Bhatkal brothers commenced their work in the year 2001 but it was only in 2003 that they started getting more and more aggressive where terror was concerned.

They selected groups  in the district and tied up with several religious schools in the belt to stress on the concept of the Jihad.

The IB says that similar recruitment and training programmes were being undertaken in Northern Karnataka. While terror operatives had decided to carry out attacks through the modules in Northern Karnataka, the modules in coastal Karnataka were lying low. The brief was clear and that was the modules in the Mangalore belt would act as a back up in case operations from the Northern side failed.

Earlier, this year the police had a massive crackdown and crippled a large part of the terror module in Northern Karnataka.

Immediately after this, the modules in coastal Karnataka became active. The Bhatkal brothers rallied their men and ensured that operations in various parts of the country did not come to a halt. The bombs that were made in Hubli, according to the confession of Riazuddin Nasir were transported into Mangalore and then to the rest of the country. The Mumbai Anti-Terror Squad, too, has confirmed this fact. The ATS also said recently that the men who were arrested following Operation BAD were all linked closely to the Bhatkal brothers.

The Karnataka police say that they are approaching this problem with an iron fist. Policing has been increased and there is also a thorough check being conducted on illegal immigrants, the police say. 


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