The National Investigation Agency (NIA) will soon take charge of the autorickshaw blast case in Mangaluru in Dakshina Kannada district — which the police suspect is an act of terror — as the probe has extended beyond the State with possible international links and ramificiations.
A moving autorickshaw caught fire Padil-Pumpwell Main Road after a minor blast reportedly occurred from a bag being carried by the passenger on November 19, 2022.
The police were led on a wild goose chase across the districts of Mangaluru, Hubballi, Shivamogga, Mysuru, and Bengaluru in Karnataka as well as the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu before they could ascertain the identity of the passenger and the prime accused in the blast — Mohammed Shariq, 24, a terror suspect on the run since September 2022.
Mohammed Shariq, 24, hailing from Tirthahalli in Shivamogga district, looking after a readymade garments shop of his father, first came on the radar of the State police when he was arrested for pro-terror graffiti in Mangaluru city in November 2020.
He was arrested along with his engineering graduate associate Maaz Muneer Ahmed and booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and was later released on bail. The case is still pending.
His name resurfaced in 2022 when the Shivamogga Rural Police were probing a stabbing incident in the district around Independence Day over putting up a photo of V.D. Savarkar. They discovered that the arrested duo, Maaz Muneer and Syed Yasin, had been radicalised by Mohammed Shariq, who had sent them PDF files, videos, and several materials on making bombs.
Mohammed Shariq is said to be associated with Matheen Ahmed Taha, also hailing from Shivamogga and a member of the Al-Hind module, active in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The Bengaluru-based Al Hind module was allegedly put together by Mehboob Pasha, a resident of Gurappanapalya, Bengaluru, and Khaja Moideen, a resident of Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu.
More details continue to emerge as Karnataka Police and Central agencies try to find out the network of which Shariq was a part.