Massive Hunt for Jihadi Terrorists in Kollam by Tamilnadu Police, Afghan Terrorists under custody

published on August 7, 2008

Sleuths comb Punalur for extremists, explosives

Pioneer News Service | Kollam

The Q-Branch, the anti-extremist cell of specially trained personnel, of the Tamil Nadu Police, the Intelligence wing of the Kerala Police and personnel of the Central Intelligence Bureau held extensive but covert searches in Punalur in the district for leader of a clandestine extremist group based in Tamil Nadu who was suspected to be hiding in the area. At the same time, police took into custody three Afghan citizens under suspicious circumstances in Kundara in the district.

The Tamil Nadu Police’s Q-Branch had carried out the search in several groups, fanned out in different places in Punalur after unconfirmed but credible reports were received saying Toufeeq, leader of a group which intended to carry out blasts across South India, including Kerala and Tamil Nadu on Independence Day, had been in hiding in Punalur. Three groups of the Q-Branch were already in Punalur and police sources in Theni said it was quite possible that more teams could be drafted for the search operation.

It is said that the explosives for the planned blasts were also hidden in one or several places in Punalur. However, no success had been achieved in searches for both the extremist and the material till late evening. Punalur is viewed by the police as a vulnerable point due to its easy accessibility from Tamil Nadu through the Kollam-Chenkotta route.

The Thirunelveli Police had last week arrested three persons who were engaged in an operation to carry out blasts in South India on August 15. Manju Nath, Superintendent of Police, Thirunelveli had then said that there could be more such elements in operation in other parts of the region.

The three persons were not quite aware of the operation as such ideas were shared among extremists only on a need-to-know basis, police sources said. However, Ali Abdullah, one of the three had known that the main link in the operation, Toufeeq, was in hiding in Punalur to complete the planning and coordination of the operation.

Officials in the office of the District Superintendent of Police refused to divulge any details of the search on the ground that the operation was not mounted by them. “We are not even aware of such an operation. Even if we are, we are not supposed to say anything about it,” said a Special Branch officer in Kollam.

However, sources indicated that the search operation was not in coordination between the sleuths from the two States due to technical reasons. They also said that the Intelligence on this would be shared only at the highest level.

Meanwhile, the police were continuing to question the Afghan citizens taken into custody from a lodge at Pallimukku, Kundara on Thursday noon under suspicious circumstances. One of the trio, Mukesh Kumar, was of Indian origin while the two others, Neik Muhammad and Mehboob Khan, were of Afghan origin.

They had booked the room at the lodge giving a different name. They had also not fulfilled the condition that they should inform the local police, applicable to all foreign national while staying at any place in the country.

The police were looking into the veracity of their documents. Officials said they did not want to jump to conclusions merely because they were citizens of Afghanistan but at the same time did not want to leave anything to chance.

Sleuths of the Central Intelligence Bureau and the State Police Special Branch had several times reported on suspicious movements of people and goods through the Aryankavu border between Tamil Nadu and Kerala on the Kollam-Chenkotta route.

There were complaints that the higher-ups in the State police had not been giving the necessary attention to this aspect. Another vulnerable point, according to Intelligence officials, is the border point of Kumili through which hundreds of Tamil workers commuted on a daily basis.

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