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regular-article-logo Thursday, 23 May 2024

National Investigation Agency maps trail of Bangalore Rameshwaram Cafe blast duo to Bengal

Particulars of Calcutta stay prompt questions on whether IS sleeper cells helped them

Kinsuk Basu Calcutta Published 14.04.24, 10:00 AM
Representational image

Representational image File picture

The arrested duo in the Bangalore blast case — Adbul Matheen Taha and Mussavir Hussain Shazeb — apparently knew exactly where to head next while on the run, a finding that prompted the central intelligence agencies and the NIA to dig whether sleeper cells of the IS modules helped the two in their pan-India journey, including Calcutta.

Abdul and Mussavir hailed from Thirthahalli, Karnataka's Shivamogga district. Mussavir is believed to be one of the key persons influencing the Shivamogga Islamic State (IS) module. Abdul allegedly was involved with the Bangalore module of ISIS, Al-Hind, according to the NIA.

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Allegedly, Mussavir planted an IED at the cafe on March 1 while Abdul was the mastermind.

Investigators from the central anti-terror agency mapping the movements of the two nationally have learnt that immediately after the Bangalore blast Abdul and Mussavir left the city and after hopping around places took a train from Chennai, 11 days after the March 1 incident, to reach Calcutta.

Between March 12 and 14, the two stayed in two separate hotels on Lenin Sarani and SN Banerjee Road in central Calcutta. Between March 21 and 28, the duo stayed separately in various low-budget hotels in Ekbalpore and Kidderpore.

On March 28 afternoon, Abdul and Mussavir are believed to have taken a bus to reach Digha in East Midnapore. Between April 10 and 12, they stayed in a hotel in Digha.

"There are missing links in two phases, between March 14 and 21 and again between March 28 and April 10. It is vital to know where the two stayed during these periods and who arranged their accommodation," a senior official said.

Abdul and Mussavir used fake Aadhar cards that bore addresses of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. Most of the cards were made in Karnataka, investigators believe.

"How did the two go about choosing rundown hotels in congested localities in Calcutta, decide on using auto rickshaws for their commute and even end up visiting a shop in Chandni Chowk to repair a mobile phone? It just can't be from information on the Internet," the official said.

Investigators said Muzzamil Sheriff, Abdul's college friend, gave logistical support in carrying out the IED explosion. But after the incident, he wasn't involved in identifying pan-India locations, they believe.

Late on Friday evening after the arrests, Abdul and Mussavir were brought to Bangalore. On Saturday they were produced in a special NIA court in Bangalore. The court remanded the two in NIA custody for 10 days.

Investigators digging into the IS links of Abul and Mussavir have learnt that the two are close friends of Md Shariq, who was involved in the 2022 Mangalore pressure cooker blast.

Shariq was also allegedly involved in a pro-terror graffiti that hailed terror outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba in Mangalore in November 2020.

Central intelligence agencies have been working for some time on how some of the sleeper cells of ISIS were working across the country, setting up small modules by riding the network of some banned outfits.

The activities of the Shivamogga Islamic State in Karnataka, of which Mussavir is a key influencer according to investigators, surfaced when the NIA submitted a chargesheet in the stabbing of a 20-year-old cop, Prem Singh, in Shivamogga on August 15, 2022.

The charge sheet revealed how BTech graduates Maaz Muneer Ahmed, 23, and Syed Yasin, 22, had been radicalised and motivated by an online foreign-based handler to target public and private properties belonging to citizens of a particular community.

"These IS operatives were being paid in cryptocurrencies by their online handler via fund transfers from abroad. Investigations revealed that Maaz received crypto equivalent to around INR 1.5 lakh from the online handler in the accounts of his friends and Syed received INR 62,000 in the account of a friend," the NIA chargesheet said.

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