A raid conducted by the National Investigation Agency in Northern Kerala districts of Kannur and Kozhikode on Sunday culminated in the arrest of six persons reportedly belonging to a terror outfit and having connections with the dreaded Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). As per a statement released by the NIA, the youths were guilty of 'collecting explosives and other offensive material for targeting public places and places of importance in South India'. The arrested have been identified as Manseed from Kannur, Abu Bashir from Coimbatore at Tamil Nadu, Swalih Mohammed from Thrissur, Safwan P. from Malappuram, Jasim N.K. from Kozhikode and Ramshid Kandiyil from Kozhikode. The NIA has registered a case no. RC-05/2016 at Kochi Branch on 01-10-2016 under sections 120B, 121, 121A and 122 of IPC and sections 18, 18B, 20, 38 and 39 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
A senior police official told THE WEEK that they were keeping close tabs on those suspected to be close to the arrested. “The arrested youths hailed from both Kerala and Tamil Nadu. They were merely meeting up at Kannur district and not using it as an operational base. We have also discovered that one of the arrested returned from Gulf just a few days before,” said the official, on condition of anonymity.
Kannur and its neighboring districts are a hotbed of political violence, mainly between the RSS and the CPI(M). Just two weeks before, Kannur police had conducted an extensive raid and seized over a dozen country-made bombs and swords from a neighbourhood close to the arrest site. “We have not discovered any connection between the arrested and any political party. From what we have understood, the six have no involvement in any political activities whatsoever,” said the official. Top officials at the Kannur district administration concurred that they had not received any intimation from the NIA on the need to tighten vigil in any part of the district.
NIA teams along with Kerala, Delhi and Telangana police, launched surveillance on the movements of the accused involved in the conspiracy. Five of them were arrested while they were conducting a meeting at Kanakamala hilltop in Kannur. Subsequent searches led to the arrest of another person from Kuttiyadi in Kozhikode. During the searches, incriminating material, including electronic devices, were seized from their possession. Follow up searches are being conducted by NIA in Chennai, Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu and Kannur, Kozikhode and Mallapuram in Kerala with support of Tamil Nadu and Kerala police.
A few months ago, almost 21 people had gone missing from Kerala, reportedly to join the Islamic State. This had drawn attention to the terror networks covertly operating in the state, leading to a huge public outcry. Later on, the Kerala police arrested two people from Mumbai, Arshid Qureshi and Rizwan Khan, in connection with the alleged role they played in recruitments for the Islamic State.