Kerala blast mastermind held; breakthrough in terror probes

via VR Jayaraj | Kochi - Daily Pioneer published on July 22, 2009

The Kerala Police on Wednesday achieved a breakthrough in its investigations to cases of terror incidents in the State since 1998 with the arrest of Muhammad Abdul Halim (33), in Thazhakath, Kannur, one of the seven vital links in Kerala’s terror network. Halim was taken into custody during the police’s efforts to identify the elements behind the July 11 blast at the Ernakulam district collectorate building.

Halim, a former activist of Abdul Nasser Madani’s PDP, confessed to the police his role in the twin-blasts at the bus stands at Kozhikode on March 3, 2006, which he said was an act of vengeance for the riots in Marad, Kozhikode in January 2002. He was also an accused in several terror-related cases like the burning of a Tamil Nadu State bus in Kalamassery, of Kochi on September 9, 2005, murders of Azad and Vinod in Kannur, counterfeit currency racket and the theft of a vehicle from Aluva which was later suspected to be used in the Indian Mujahiddeen terror attack in Bangalore.

Sources in the police said one more person had been taken into custody in connection with the Kozhikode-Bangalore blasts on the basis of the statements by Halim. He was being questioned in a police safe house in Kochi but the sources refused to reveal his identity. They also said that the police were searching for yet another person in connection with the terror acts.

Kochi City Police Commissioner Manoj Abraham, who headed Halim’s interrogation, told newsmen that the terror man had given a treasure of key information regarding cases of terror incidents in the State since 1998. He said that Halim, an expert in the manufacture of time bombs, was a close associate of Nazeer, said to be the chief organiser of Lashkar-e-Tayeeba in Kerala. He was also part of Noorish-e-Tariquat, the pivotal force behind the terror network in Kerala.

According to the police, Halim had learned the art of explosives-making from Abdul Sattar alias Sainuddeen aka Sattar Bhai, who was now in the custody of the Karnataka Police for manufacturing the bombs that went off in the Garden City and other places in India. All terror operations inside Kerala were coordinated by Noorish-e-Tariqat, which had seven members in the State including Nazeer and Halim. The police had confirmed that this gang was behind the twin blasts at the Kozhikode bus terminals.

Though nobody had been hurt in the twin blasts, in which five persons including Halim and Nazeer had been directly involved, the police were of the feeling that these explosions were the “dry run” for the Bangalore blasts. The police also said that Halim was the person who set the process on for the bomb attacks in Bangalore.

Noorish-e-Tariqat had been getting financial assistance from Kerala and outside, Manoj Abraham said. According to the police, this gang had been involved in 80 per cent of the terror-related incidents in the State since 2004. These operatives had held several meetings in places outside the State, including Hyderabad, from where Abdul Sattar was arrested.

The police were confident that the information provided by Halim would help them to nab the other chief terror operators from the State, including Nazeer. They said the former PDP activist had also kept connections with the four Malayalee militants killed in encounter with security forces in Kupwara, Kashmir in October last, which had formed the springboard of all the police investigations into the terror network of Kerala.

Halim had earlier been arrested in connection with the theft of a vehicle in Aluva, of Kochi. He had then told the police that he had taken it for finding money for his wife’s treatment. However, later it was suspected that this vehicle was used in the Indian Mujahiddeen terror attack in Bangalore last year.

The police had already been able to find out several terror-connections of Halim, including Sarfaras Nawaz, the Oman-based LeT fund-raiser from near Kochi, apart from Nazeer and Abdul Sattar. Nawaz, now in the custody of the Karnataka Police, had reportedly told the Kerala Police during a 14-day remand in Kannur that Halim had provided assistance in the treatment of Abdul Sattar.

The Kochi City Police Commissioner said that there were no reasons to believe that Halim did not have any role in the blast at the Ernakulam district collectorate building. He said the components used in the time-set explosive were terrorist-grade materials.

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