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Karnataka youths were planning to revive SIMI

Karnataka youths were planning to revive SIMI

Author: Johnson T A, Bangalore
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: February 21, 2008
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/story/274808.html

After the chance arrest of two youths-Raziuddin Nasir and Mohammed Asadullah-from Karnataka's Davangere region on January 11 for suspicious activities, much of the focus of the investigations has been on Nasir's terror connections. The probe has now gone deeper, with officials inquiring into what is believed to be an attempt to strengthen the capabilities of the proscribed Students Islamic Movement of India to carry out or logistically support terrorist activities-planned and funded by groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba-in Karnataka, Goa and parts of Andhra Pradesh.

In fact, what was initially an investigation into motorcycle thefts, is now moving into serious charges like waging war against the country and criminal conspiracy to carry out blasts across the country.

Since Nasir and Asadullah fell into the trap of the police in mid-January, four other youths-including three medical students-all hailing from northern Karnataka, have been netted on the basis of information provided by the previously arrested.

Raziuddin Nasir is the son of Hyderabad cleric Maulana Naseeruddin, who himself is facing trial for criminal conspiracy in Gujarat.

On the basis of disclosures made by Nasir, police believe that he is possibly the only foreign-trained terror operative in the group uncovered so far.

Police also believe that several meetings have been held in Karnataka, and a possible reconnaissance of targets-primarily tourist spots in Goa-have been carried out by members of the group.

According to sources, the group was being put together by a senior SIMI leader, Adnan alias Hafeez, an engineering graduate hailing from Bijapur in north Karnataka, who has disappeared following the news of the arrests.

Adnan, son of a retired government bus driver, is believed to have introduced Nasir to the others as a prelude to planning and carrying out an attack, possibly in Goa, they said. He was a source of funds and seems to have travelled abroad, they added. "Nasir was to be used only at the time of an operation. He seems to have gone beyond his brief in personally travelling to Goa and other places. This resulted in his arrest," police said.

"The ground was probably being set for a SIMI-LeT operations in this region," a senior state intelligence official said.

Among the arrested, apart from Nasir, are Asadullah, an ayurvedic medicine dropout who had been living in Hubli in north Karnataka; Mohammed Asif, a final-year medical student at the Kempegowda Institute of Medical Sciences, hailing from the family of a poor silverware polisher at Raichur in north Karnataka; Mirza Ahmed Baig, a KIIMS medical student and considered an ideologue by others and Allah Baksh Yadavada, another KIIMS medical student.

The sixth man, who also participated in meetings held by the members of the group at Castle Rock on the Karnataka-Goa border and near a Dargah in the Kalghati forests near Dharwad, where an air gun practice session was organised, is Shakeel Mali, an electrician from Hubli.

A few meetings of the group were held at a farmhouse owned by Mali, while several members of the group also learnt to drive a car that was bought in Mali's name.

The group in north Karnataka was tapping into various kinds of resources already available with the new frontal organisations for the SIMI in coastal Karnataka and north Kerala, sources said.

Advisor to the Karnataka Governor on home affairs, P K H Tharakan, a former chief of RAW, has described the arrests as the "tip of an iceberg" and the possible end to a "major, major initiative".

By way of evidence in the continuing investigations, apart from details of discussions at meetings, provided by the members of the group and jehadi literature, the police so far claim to have unearthed gelatin sticks and electrical wires from a forest near Hubli-on information provided by Mohammed Asif.

The police also have a case of theft against Nasir and Asadullah on the basis of six stolen motorcycles recovered on the basis of information provided by them.

While there has been talk of arms and ammunition being awaited by the group, nothing has been traced yet, sources said.

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