Rana planned sleeper cells in Kochi

via VR Jayaraj | Kochi published on November 16, 2009

Investigators looking into the Kochi visit of Canada-based Pakistani terror man Tahawwur Hussein Rana in November, 2008 have got enough leads to believe that his actual mission in Kochi could have been creation of sleeper cells of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba in Kerala and not recruitment of manpower.

Rana had visited Kochi just 10 days before the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, and Intelligence officials are of the opinion that his mission here could have been to set up sleeper cells to be kept in reserve for drawing into terror action if, and when, “other plans” failed.

The investigators have found that Rana, during his 24-hour stay in Kochi had taken a boat-ride and had even visited MG Road, the commercial and trade nerve-centre of the developing city. They have also found that facilitator for Rana’s Kochi visit was an Ernakulam-based emigration clearing agent, Shemir, and that the Canadian terror man had also received help from a Keralite NRI living in the US.

The IB and the NIA now know that Shemir, who used to travel between Kochi and the Gulf regularly, had received calls from Syed Abdul Rahman Syed, LeT commander in Pakistan, immediately after the arrest of Rana by the FBI in Chicago. Unconfirmed reports said that Shemir had already fallen into the police net but officials formally maintained that he was in UAE or Saudi Arabia presently.

Intelligence officials in Kochi said that an official of DySP rank from the NIA, who had already been in the city, would soon file his preliminary report on the Rana visit to the agency. The NIA official had carried out thorough examinations at Hotel Taj Residency (now Gateway Hotel) where Rana had stayed during his visit on November 16 and 17 last year.

Officials indicated that the ad Rana had placed in an English newspaper on November 17 could have had no relation with his actual mission, but it could have been a notice to alert those whom he was scheduled to meet. Sleuths have learned that he had gone out of the hotel and out of the city too – several times during his short stay. They also said that there were no evidences to suggest that Rana had used his trip to get anyone from Kochi out of the country.

The investigators have learned that several persons had been assigned to assist Rana in Kochi and outside during his visit. Officials indicated that most of them would be rounded up in the next days.

It is now known that two different travel companies had booked the room for Rana at Taj Residency and his ticket for the Kingfisher Airlines flight. But the agencies are yet to find out who had received Rana at the international airport at nearby Nedumbassery and took him to the hotel. Investigators believe that Rana’s trips in and around Kochi were to meet certain people who had connections with the LeT. They also assume that Rana was forced to complete his assignment in Kochi quickly as the IB and the Kerala Police had launched anti-terror probes following the killing of four Malayalee militants by security forces in Kupwara in the first fortnight of October, 2008.

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