Chennai, Dec. 3: The recent blast near the Sai Baba temple in Hyderabad and the subsequent killing of prime accused Syed Imran, the Lashkar-e-Toiba top gun in the south, in an encounter at Karimnagar has helped uncover the group’s operations in Tamil Nadu, police said today.
Two militants arrested in Chennai, Zachariah and Taufiq, allegedly had links with Imran and were taking instructions from him, police commissioner K. Vijayakumar said.
Chennai police cracked down on the two with inputs from the Intelligence Bureau and Hyderabad and foiled a big strike they were planning in the state on December 6, the 10th anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition, the commissioner told reporters. Vijayakumar claimed that the two were planning to “hit some temples, blast statues of leaders and create dissension” across the state, particularly in Chennai.
Their interrogation uncovered several plans the Muslim Defence Force, a new outfit that the two were key leaders of, had to create law and order problems in Tamil Nadu. These included targeting top religious and political leaders, the officer said.
“No specific names have been revealed so far, but at the conceptual level they had identified their targets — temples, prominent statues and leaders,” he added.
“The Laskhar connection is not 100 per cent established, but we are investigating further because the fact that the militants’ boss was Imran, who is considered a number one Lashkar-e-Toiba man in India, has caused serious concern,” Vijayakumar said.
The police yesterday seized 8 kg of “hard and powerful” explosives from a hideout at Mallipattinam in Thanjavur, which was to be transported to Chennai in a couple of days.
Imran had allegedly visited Chennai in September at the time of Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations, when the immersions often stoke tension.
The spurt in the activities of the Muslim Defence Force goes back to the aftermath of the Gujarat riots, the commissioner said. One Abu Hamsa, believed to be in Saudi Arabia, was guiding the group’s operations through recruits, who included local youths.
Zachariah and Taufiq had their roles cut out for them, with the first planning the sabotage operations and the second taking care of the ideology, the commissioner said.
Hameed Bukhari, a resident of Kayalpattinam in Tirunelveli, had joined the group as part of the think tank, Vijayakumar said. He was the brother-in-law of Imam Ali, a notorious militant.
In June, Hameed had presided over a clandestine meeting of about 25 youths at Coutrallam — famous for its waterfalls — to strengthen the Force. He was also believed to have visited Sri Lanka for about a week, Vijayakumar added. “We have now identified those who took part in the secret conference at Coutrallam,” he added. “Police are on the lookout for remaining members of that group. Apart from Zachariah and Taufiq, the police have picked up three suspected militants from Thanjavur and another from Kayalpattinam.”
Urging the Centre to tighten coordination between passport offices within a region, he said security has been beefed up, particularly in all major temples, in the run-up to December 6.
Governor P.S. Ramamohan Rao today gave his assent to the Bill banning religious conversions, passed by the Tamil Nadu Assembly in October.