In a swift operation, sleuths of the Tamil Nadu intelligence arrested a suspected Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) operative in Tiruchi on Monday. A special team intercepted the suspect Thamim Ansari (35) of Adirampattinam when he was proceeding to the Tiruchi airport to take a flight to Colombo. Two DVDs were seized from his possession, highly placed police sources said.

Acting on a tip-off from intelligence agencies of the Union Government, a team comprising officers from the Special Division and ‘Q’ Branch CID was formed to apprehend Ansari, a former Students Federation of India leader. The input was that Ansari, a post-graduate in Tamil, was providing the ISI with visuals of vital installations such as defence establishments in the country.

“He has videographed the Madras Regimental Centre at Wellington [the Nilgiris district], Nagapattinam Port etc. Two DVDs containing Para Gliding Training of the Indian Army in the desert and an Army Signal Corps parade were seized from his possession. Enquiries revealed that Ansari took the help of an ex-serviceman claiming that he was making a documentary on Indian Army titled ‘Power of India’,” an investigator told The Hindu.

His future assignments were to videograph the Eastern Naval Command of the Navy in Visakhapatnam and the Sulur Air Base, the investigator claimed. “He had assignments to cover defence establishments in a few States. This could be a grave security risk as hostile elements would know the topography/location of sensitive installations and also the escape routes,” he said.

Alleging that Ansari was an ISI operative, Superintendent of Police (‘Q’ Branch CID) G. Sampath Kumar claimed the suspect worked for the Pakistani intelligence agency through two Sri Lankan nationals – known only as Haji and Shaji – whom he met during a business trip to Colombo.

Ansari studied in a Chennai college and actively participated in the Students Federation of India (SFI). “He suffered losses in an import/export business venture. During one of his visits to Colombo, Ansari met Haji in a restaurant. Haji and Shaji worked for an official working in the Pakistani High Commission in Sri Lanka,” he said.

Sources in the intelligence agencies said Ansari was using a debit card that had frequent credit from Sri Lanka. “A team of ‘Q’ Branch officials might visit Colombo soon for further investigation,” a top police official said and added that the entire operation was closely monitored and coordinated by Intelligence Bureau officials.

Medical representative

R. Rajaram adds from Tiruchi:

The ‘Q’ Branch CID booked Ansari under Sections 3, 4 and 9 of the Official Secrets Act and Section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC. He was produced before the Judicial Magistrate II on Monday evening and remanded in judicial custody till October 1.

Enquiries revealed that Ansari was the SFI’s Thanjavur district secretary some years ago, and was later working as a medical representative.