Terrorists masqueraded as traders

A.D. Rangarajan
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‘Gate Puttur’ tense following the operation to flush out terrorists

People taking a look at the police operation in Puttur town of Chittoor district on Saturday.-Photo: K.V. Poornachandra Kumar
People taking a look at the police operation in Puttur town of Chittoor district on Saturday.-Photo: K.V. Poornachandra Kumar

Tension was palpable on Saturday in ‘Gate Puttur’ in the railway town of Puttur till the two terrorists Bilal Malik and Panna Ismail were captured after an 11-hour operation. The residents could not reconcile to the fact that they had been living with the two supposedly-hardcore terrorists for two years.

Right from 3 a.m, when the first assault was made on a Special Branch (Chennai) Inspector Lakshmanan, a pall of uncertainty and panic was all-pervasive in the four lanes that formed part of Gate Puttur. The policemen slowly removed the inhabitants away from the vicinity and cordoned off the region by dawn. The Masjid Street, located a stone’s throw away from the railway station and beyond the School Street, Gate Street and Medhara Street, is inhabited by members of the Muslim community. Though the purported area of operation of the duo is Chennai, Puttur town is just an hour-and-a-half journey by train from the metropolis. Perhaps, it is this veil of ‘Muslim concentration’ in an alien State that the two terrorists wanted to take advantage of, in order to evade suspecting eyes.

According to the residents, they came to Puttur in the guise of traders buying used and old clothes, took two houses on rent in the locality, one a month back and the other, two years ago. The tiled house in which they were holed up was taken on a monthly rent of Rs.1,000 from Yasin Basha, a Central Excise Superintendent, who passed away recently due to illness. The women in the street told this correspondent that the duo was always tight-lipped. “They are Tamils and we are Telugus. What’s there for them to talk to us?”, snaps Hasina, an elderly woman who has seen one of them regularly collect water from the public tap.

Policemen were jubilant at the end of the ‘bloodless’ operation. Significantly, the first-ever operation in the state by Octopus, the elite anti-terrorist division, did not involve bloodshed .



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