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Police to probe funding for new outfit

CHENNAI DEC. 4. Besides probing the motive of five extremists, arrested in the run-up to the Babri Masjid demolition anniversary, the police plan to investigate the financial operations of the outfit to which they belong.

The State police and intelligence agencies, however, seem to be handicapped without details of the "Muslim Defence Force", except that the outfit, which surfaced of late, has about 25 members.

The police and intelligence personnel believe that the organisation cannot survive with meagre contributions from locals alone. The probe will go into possible funding from the affluent in foreign countries. Without mentioning the MDF in particular, the sources say `hawala transactions' are the main source of funding for militant outfits. Given their wide network, which spread to foreign countries, it is an uphill task for the enforcement agencies to keep a tab on the operators.

Intelligence sources point out that soon after the 1998 serial bomb blasts in Coimbatore, funds were collected by an organisation in the cause of community members. A team of officials from the Union Home Ministry scrutinised the collections to see whether there was any violation of the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act. Later, other Central agencies also verified the accounts; but by the time the check was conducted, a good portion of the amount had been distributed. Only a small amount is now lying in a nationalised bank locker.

Unless a serious and constant watch is kept on the finances of the various organisations, particularly those which receive funds from other countries, it will be difficult to check the growth of the outfits, the sources say.

In the present instance, Abu Hamsa, who hails from Hyderabad and is now in Saudi Arabia, is suspected to be behind the operations of the MDF. The organisation seems to be in the formative stage, as enquiries reveal that its members have been instructed to enlist as many persons as possible and to convince the minority community about their activities. What is worrying the authorities is its objective is to give "fitness and arms training" to the members.

Interrogation of those arrested in Tamil Nadu reveals that the organisation has planned to create commotion in the State and other parts of the country by damaging statues of national leaders in the city and by attacking Hindu organisations, says a police officer.

The police say they are not complacent after the arrests were made. "We are fortunate. They were unlucky." But the alert should continue keeping in view the fact that fundamentalists will be determined to achieve their objective somehow. Two of those nabbed in the city came into contact with the international operator when they were working in Saudi Arabia. Abu Hamsa is said to assign roles to various members of the organisation. The operators here were awaiting "appropriate orders at the appropriate time".

Authorities here are in touch with their Andhra Pradesh counterparts to get more information about the fundamentalists. The city police got the information on the presence of the arrested persons here from Hyderabad, following a bomb explosion at a Saibaba temple in Andhra Pradesh. A police team has also left for Andhra Pradesh as part of the investigation.

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