The prime suspect in Saturday’s blast in Mangaluru stayed in Coimbatore in the first week of September, police investigation has revealed. The 24-year-old suspect, Mohammed Shariq, was also one of the two people injured in the blast that occurred in a moving auto rickshaw.
While staying in a dormitory in Coimbatore, Mr. Shariq used his associate Surendran’s Aadhaar card credentials to obtain a SIM card.
Though there is no prior record of Mr. Shariq coming to the adverse notice of the police, investigators are looking at the possibility of his links with Jameesha Mubin, who was killed in a car blast in Coimbatore last month, or with other suspected Islamic State operatives and sympathisers in the State.
Police apprehended Mr. Surendran of Udhagamandalam, who is believed to have admitted to having known Mr. Shariq and giving him his Aadhaar card. However, Mr. Surendran told police he had no knowledge about the Mangaluru blast and claimed that Mr. Shariq left Coimbatore without informing him.
Confirming that Mr. Shariq had stayed in Coimbatore in the first week of September, Tamil Nadu Director-General of Police (DGP) C. Sylendra Babu told The Hindu on Sunday that special teams were enquiring about details of his associates and contacts as he was not previously on the radar of the State police.
“It is true that he obtained the SIM card with Surendran’s Aadhaar card. We are analysing the call details and also the locations visited by the suspect in recent months. There is no evidence to link Shariq with Mubin as of now, though it is possible that they could be acting on the instructions of the same handler,” he said.
Going by the information available, it appeared that Mr. Shariq was trained in the making of Improvised Explosive Devices that could be triggered by timer devices. A burnt pressure cooker and batteries were found at the scene of the blast.
The DGP said that investigators would look into the similarities between the nature of explosives used in the Mangaluru blast and in the Coimbatore car explosion which took place on October 23, in which the main suspect Mr. Mubin was killed.
Dr. Sylendra Babu said senior police officers across Tamil Nadu have been alerted to enhance manpower at check-posts along the State borders. While vehicle checks have been intensified at vulnerable locations, police will also thoroughly verify abandoned vehicles like cars, vans, motorcycles and autorickshaws.
The Government Railway Police were told to coordinate with the Railway Protection Force and step-up surveillance at major railway stations as well.
Strict access control measures are in place at vital installations and sensitive locations where plainclothesmen have been posted to look for any suspicious persons or activities, he added.