Kerala IS suspects under NIA lens after calls to Sri Lanka (IANS Exclusive)

Updated on : Apr 29,2019   7:50 pm

New Delhi, April 29 (IANS) Suspected IS sympathisers in various parts of Kerala are on the NIA's radar in wake of the horrendous Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka following intercepts of calls between people in the state and the island nation as well as some Facebook accounts on which "provocative" materials were uploaded, sources said.

The telephonic intercepts, an National Investigation Agency (NIA) official said, include chats that occurred on multiple occasions among people in Malappuram, Kasargod and Palakkad in Kerala and those in Sri Lanka.

Besides, Facebook accounts of some suspects in Kerala and Tamil Nadu that had been active till 10 days before the Sri Lanka blasts are part of investigation of the anti-terror agency which unearthed a suspected Islamic State module in Kasargod and Palakkad during its raid on Sunday at the houses of three people.

The Facebook accounts, the details of which were not shared by the official on grounds that it can affect the investigation, were being used to upload "jihadi preachings and provocative" materials to radicalize people and persuade them to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State.

The IP addresses of some computers and laptops used to upload some incriminating videos and sermons of different Islamic preachers on Youtube are also under scrutiny of the NIA, the official, requesting anonymity, told IANS.

The NIA suspects that the operators in Kerala are Islamic State sympathizers and might have been in touch with the groups headed by Zahran Hashim, a radical Tamil-speaking cleric who is believed to have master-minded the Sri Lanka blasts.

Hashim was found to be in touch with the Islamic State sympathizers during his visit to Malappuram in Kerala, and Coimbatore, Tiruchirappalli, Tirunelveli, Vellore and Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu some time in 2017-2018, another official said.

Questioning of Ahamed Arafat, Aboobacker Siddique and Riyas Abu Bakar whose houses were raided, according to an NIA source, could not lead the agency to fruitful results in the Sri Lanka blasts investigation but confirmed that they had links with the accused in a 2016 case in which 14 people from Kasaragod left India or their workplaces in the Middle East for Afghanistan and Syria to join the Islamic State.

The April 21 attacks on three churches and three luxury hotels in Colombo and elsewehre killed 253 people, including 11 Indian nationals and some foreigners, and injured 500. Fifteen people, including three suicide bombers, died during a raid by Sri Lankan security forces on Friday night and nearly 100 people have been detained in the island nation.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bombings and released a video that showed Hashim and seven other men pledging allegiance to Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The Sri Lankan government has pointed a finger at Hashim indirectly as the prime suspect in the Easter Sunday blasts and accused him of leading little-known Islamist group, the National Thowheeth Jamaath (NTJ), affiliated to the Islamic State. Sri Lankan intelligence officials and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe believe that Hashim may have master-minded the attacks.

Another official from a central intelligence agency said Hashim was also associated with a Tamil Nadu-based Islamic State sympathizers through illegal trade and social media sites like Youtube and Facebook but has not been found to be involved in any terror activities.

Hasim, the official suspects, might have come in contact with these Islamic State sympathizers in Kerala and Tamil Nadu through this way and he later visited India aimed at radicalizing them to establish a pro-Islamic State module.

Officials said several Sri Lanka Islamic State operatives were also in touch with Indian suspects in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at rajnish.s@ians.in)

--IANS

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