Multi-State police action nets 12 terror suspects

Dozen persons from sleeper cells across country arrested in Delhi, Bengaluru, Udupi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

Updated - January 20, 2020 02:22 am IST

Published - January 19, 2020 10:37 pm IST - CHENNAI

Tamil Nadu Police commando force is deployed in front of Thucklay police station where Abdul Shameem and Thoufiq, the accused in the murder of sub-inspector Wilson, were kept on January 16, 2020.

Tamil Nadu Police commando force is deployed in front of Thucklay police station where Abdul Shameem and Thoufiq, the accused in the murder of sub-inspector Wilson, were kept on January 16, 2020.

In a coordinated, covert operation, special teams of the Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra police, guided by Central intelligence agencies, neutralised alleged sleeper cells across the country and averted a plot to unleash terror in major cities.

Police sources said since provisions under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act were invoked and the terror module had spread to more than four States, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) would investigate the case.

The Tamil Nadu police have already sent a report to the Union Home Ministry in this regard.

At least a dozen suspects, hand-picked from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and trained to carry out attacks on individuals and vital establishments, were arrested in Delhi, Bengaluru, Udupi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad, sources in the intelligence agencies told The Hindu on Sunday.

Special teams of the ‘Q’ Branch CID of the Tamil Nadu police were working with different State police forces to apprehend a few more suspects who have gone underground after their module was busted and accomplices were taken into custody, the sources said.

Foreign handler

According to officials, the two modules comprising at least a dozen or more youth indoctrinated with a jihadi ideology and prepared to launch fidayeen (suicide) attacks, were reporting to a foreign handler.

Parrying questions on the nationality of the handler and how he managed to form sleeper cells in India, Deputy Inspector-General of Police N. Kannan said it was too early to share details since the operation was still on.

“We can only say that a major sabotage plan targeting individuals and institutions has been successfully averted. Acting on timely and specific intelligence shared by the Tamil Nadu police, Central intelligence agencies worked with the Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and West Bengal police forces in zeroing in on the sleeper cells,” he said.

The ‘Q’ Branch CID police on Saturday arrested Hussain Sherif of Bengaluru, who provided shelter to Shameem and Thoufic, the assailants who shot dead special sub-inspector Wilson in Kanyakumari district recently.

Digital trail erased

“The suspect has managed to erase some material evidence connected to the case which we are trying to retrieve. The mysterious absence of three accused persons in a sensational murder case and the way they systematically erased their digital footprint and trail gave a clear indication that they were planning something big,” Mr. Kannan said.

“Hussain Sherif was running a front organisation, Al Hind Trust, in Bengaluru to carry out charity activities though his hidden agenda was to pursue jihad,” the police officer said.

Meanwhile, police sources said a couple of gangs were arrested as they were waiting to receive “consignments” from undisclosed locations.

Tamil Nadu Director-General of Police J.K. Tripathy reviewed the security arrangements and further course of action with senior police officials.

Senior investigators said they analysed about 500 SIM card communications to narrow down on a dozen numbers that had suspicious call detail record.

“These numbers only consumed data and had no calls. All the cards were activated in the Salem area in Tamil Nadu but were active in Karnataka,” a police officer said.

“The documents used to activate these SIM cards were genuine, though the original subscribers had no contact with the suspects and they had their own numbers. Enquiries are on with the retail SIM sellers who seem to have activated fresh numbers on the basis of documents submitted by other customers,” he said.

While the source of three country-made weapons and 89 rounds of ammunition seized from suspects arrested in the past two weeks is under investigation, the official said, more information on the contacts of the accused persons will be known after analysing their mobile phones and storage devices that have been referred to cyberforensic experts.

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