In a swift and dramatic operation, the Tamil Nadu police on Saturday raided a house at Puttur of Andhra Pradesh, about 100 km from Chennai, and arrested two wanted suspects — Bilal Malik and Panna Ismail — whose involvement was alleged in about half-a-dozen major crimes.
During a 11-hour standoff, a police inspector was brutally attacked. This forced security personnel to open fire, injuring one of the accused. The arrest was followed by a huge haul of explosives, including magnetic bombs, in the house at Puttur, in Chittoor district, police sources said.
The police operation was preceded by the arrest of Fakruddin alias ‘Police’ Fakruddin in Chennai late on Friday. On Saturday, at the end of the operation carried out by the Tamil Nadu police and the Andhra Pradesh police’s elite ‘Octopus’ division and Chittoor district officials, Panna Ismail and Bilal Malik, all activists owing allegiance to the banned al-Umma, were taken into custody. Investigators claimed to have averted attacks targeting important leaders of Hindu organisations in Chennai, Tirupur, Erode and Madurai who were allegedly on the hit list of the gang.
After the arrest of Fakruddin, a special team of Tamil Nadu police rushed to Puttur and attempted to enter the hideout on Masjid Street in the early hours of Saturday. The suspects dragged Inspector Lakshmanan into the house and attacked him with knives. In a bid to save his life, a Deputy Superintendent of Police opened fire, injuring Ismail. Ismail, Malik, his wife and three children remained locked in the house. When the police tried to storm into the hideout, the suspects warned them that they would trigger an explosion, killing all in the vicinity.
As pleas for surrender did not yield results, the police drilled a hole on the ceiling and dropped teargas shells into the house in an attempt to force the occupants out. Ismail, the woman and children found it difficult to endure suffocation and ran out. They were taken to a waiting ambulance for first aid. Around 3 p.m., the police entered the house and took custody of Malik.
The three suspects were involved in the murder of BJP State general secretary auditor V. Ramesh in Salem and Hindu Munnani State secretary S. Vellaiyappan at Vellore in July this year. The injured Inspector was rushed to a private hospital in Chennai, where his condition was said to be stable. Ismail was referred to a hospital at Puttur and then shifted to the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital in Chennai.
Based on the statements of Fakruddin and Malik, the police seized a pistol and a large consignment of explosives, including a magnetic timer, pipe bombs and 106 electrical detonators. The duo was said to have confessed to having conspired to eliminate senior leaders of the Hindu Munnani and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in Tamil Nadu. On Friday, Fakruddin conducted a dry run by visiting the Hindu Munnani office in Chindradripet and also inspected the route of a religious procession, the police added.