Hand of HuJI, IM sleeper cells suspected in terror strike

The National Investigation Agency (NIA), probing the Delhi High Court blast case, suspects sleeper cells of the Harkat-ul-Jihadi Islami (HuJI) and the Indian Mujahideen in Kerala could have had a hand in the terror strike.

Sleuths are trying to extract details from some of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives including Thadiyanatavide Nazir and Sarfaraz Nawaz, both lodged in the Bangalore Central Prison. Their interrogation, following their arrests, had already revealed how a transnational terror module operates in some South Asian countries linked to Gulf nations.

Reliable sources told The Hindu on Sunday that some persons arrested in Kashmir for their suspected role in the Delhi blast had given hints to the NIA to investigate the source of funding and connections in Kerala. It is believed that terror modules operate from Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and now recently traced to Sri Lanka.

Nazir, hailing from Kannur district, has been convicted for life in the Kozhikode twin-blast case of 2006 and is an accused in the Bangalore serial blast and several others in Kerala as well. Nawaz from Pallikkara in Ernakulam, had been the fund-raiser for LeT operations in India. He was secretly brought to India from Oman by a RAW team.

Sources said that Nazir, soon after carrying out the Bangalore explosions in July 2008, had fled to Pune and, with help from a Bangladeshi Islamist, reached Kolkata and finally Bangladesh. He took up the job of a textile mill worker.

The fugitive was possibly exposed following the disclosures by David Coleman Headley about the secret activities of HuJI in Bangladesh and the Karachi Project that planned to recruit Indian youths to carry out subversive activities.

The Union Ministry of Home had already spoken about six youths from the State, absconding in the Kashmir recruitment case. Nazir, who was associated with LeT and HuJI in Bangladesh, was arrested and handed over to the Border Security Force.

Intelligence officials began to identify sleeper cells in the State linked to Pakistan-operated terror attacks in the country at least two decades ago.

Imam Ali, a small time criminal in Tamil Nadu, was spotted by the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), to get training under the Hizbul Mujahideen in Kashmir and later he shifted base to Dhaka in Bangladesh.

Soon he reached Kozhikode and started a textile shop in Ponnani in 1992-93. Along with his accomplice, Hyder Ali, he carried out a training camp for SIMI activists in Malappuram district. Nazir had once provided shelter to Imam Ali in Kannur when the latter was on the run.

However Ali was arrested at Mettupalayam in 1995 and he also made a daring escape from police clutches in 2002. His end came when a joint Special Task Force of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu shot him in Bangalore.

Only recently, intelligence agencies began to keep a tab on modules that had connections with Kannur. Most of them have either been killed by security forces in Kashmir or arrested But a key player K.P. Sabeer, involved in the recruitment case, is still at large. Another operative is C.A.M. Basheer, a former State president of SIMI, who is supposed to be shuttling between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, sources said.