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Bangalore techie held for terror took Lashkar man on Kerala tour: police

Bangalore techie held for terror took Lashkar man on Kerala tour: police

Author: Johnson T A and Rajeev P I
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: February 23, 2008
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/story/276151.html

In a catch possibly reaching the nerve centre of the activities of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India, the Corps of Detectives of the Karnataka police have arrested a former software engineer and discovered that he may be a key link to SIMI activities in India and to leaders of the group.

Mohammed Yahya Kammukutty, 31, hailing from Mukkom in Kozhikode district of Kerala, was arrested Thursday night as part of a continuing probe into a SIMI network in Karnataka that has already lead to the arrest of six youths from northern Karnataka, including four medical students.

Yahya is believed to have participated in one key meeting of at least 32 alleged SIMI cadre, including the six arrested so far, held in the Castle Rock forest region on the Karnataka-Goa border, last year. He is being shown as arrested, along with the others, in a case of conspiracy to wage war against the country registered with the Hubli police.

Police sources said Yahya who frequently travelled to Saudi Arabia was as a key supplier of funds for activities undertaken by the constituents of the proscribed outfit working under the guise of a new unit called SARANI.

Yahya is found to have come up on police and intelligence radars on at least one occasion in the past - including a police interrogation in early 2003 when he-then a 25-year-old-was found to have taken an alleged Lashkar-e-Taiba militant Muhammad Faisal Khan alias Abu Sultan on a tour of Kerala and also arranged his stay in Bangalore.

Sultan, considered the then southern India commander of the LeT, is suspected to have played a role in the March 13, 2003, bomb blasts in Mumbai's Mulund area that killed 12 people and a series of blasts in the city in 2002-2003. He was killed in an encounter in Goregaon with the Andheri Crime Intelligence Unit of the Mumbai police on March 29, 2003.

"When Yahya was questioned in Kerala and Mumbai in 2003 he had stated he was working as an IT professional in Bangalore and did not know anything about the LeT links of Abu Sultan. He said he was merely a tourist guide to Sultan," sources said.

The sources said Yahya, who was asked to leave the software company of a major multi-national firm two months ago, is suspected to be a close associate of a much wanted and key former SIMI President from Kerala C A M Basheer-considered in security circles as one of the first Indians to receive terrorist training in Pakistan, in the north western frontier province, in the late 1980s.

Basheer, hailing from Aluva in Kerala, is also suspected to have played a role in the March 13, 2003 bomb blasts in Mulund. He is currently believed to be hiding in Saudi Arabia, senior security officials in Karnataka said.

"Yahya made frequent trips to Saudi Arabia. He had just returned a month prior to his arrest from Haj. He could have been meeting Basheer on the visits," police sources said.

The electrical engineer is also considered a key associate of another engineer Adnan alias Hafeez from Bijapur in Karnataka, currently being sought by the police as the lynchpin behind the efforts to build a SIMI network in Karnataka. "Mohammed Yahya, who was employed by a major Indian IT company before joining the multi-national unit, seems to be the same person who was questioned by the Kerala and Mumbai police for his links to Abu Sultan," a senior investigator said.

Yahya had been living in a rented house in south Bangalore for the past year. He was asked to step down from his last employment two months ago after his company found him stealing data and using it for a company he had created on his own. He had also been found to be actively involved in sending e-mails containing jihadi literature to colleagues, an investigator said.

The Karnataka police suspect that a network of the banned SIMI was being built in Karnataka in an effort to provide support to foreign-trained terrorists to carry out operations in the region.

Whle the Bangalore cops who have arrested him paint Yahya as a terror suspect, his family in Mukkom village of Kozhikode insists the charge is preposterous. His father says it's unthinkable that his son could gravitate towards any kind of militant crowd.
Until he passed out of the National Institute of Technology in Kozhikode in 1996 with a degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering, and got employed at Tata Infotech in Bangalore through campus recruitment, Yahya was Nellikkaparambil Kammukkutty. He had later officially renamed himself as Yahya Kammukkutty.

Though the Bangalore cops had claimed him to have been arrested only yesterday, his family has a different story. His father N N Beerankutty says Yahya had stayed for a fortnight at his family home in Kozhikode until February 17, to look up the work on a small house he was building there. He left for Bangalore on February 18, and the next day, four men, claiming to be from the Intelligence Bureau, turned up at his Bangalore home, while he was having lunch. They said they wanted to sort out some papers, and took him away in front of his wife and three kids, according to Beerankutty.

Beerankutty reached Bangalore the next day with some friends to look for his son. Since the police there could not say where he was, Beerankutty returned to Kozhikode today morning. Beerankutty claims to have been thinking of moving a habeas corpus petition to trace him, when he finally got to know of Yahya's arrest this morning.

Coming from a middle-class, deeply religious Muslim family in the village, his neighbours say they have no clue of his activities after he moved to Bangalore 12 years ago. "He is a devout Muslim given to praying five times a day, like all of us in our family. He had always been an introvert, shy, studious and softspoken, and had never got into any kind of trouble. No one will believe he has anything to do with militancy," insists Beerankutty.

Police sources, however, say they are verifying some indications that Yahya, who used to come down from Bangalore once every few months, was in close touch with elements of the banned SIMI who had since gone into other innocuous front outfits.

Kozhikode was a major SIMI base until the ban. That apart, sources say Yahya has been under surveillance and investigation in Bangalore for over a couple of years now, his mobile phone number was found in the pocket of one of the two militants killed in J&K two years ago.

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