Why coastal Karnataka blips on IB radar
Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru
• How Hubli turned into a terror hub • Delhi blasts: The Karnataka connection • The dossier of a terror mastermind
• Andhra Pradesh: Jihad’s new hotspot • Why South India is a jihadi target • God’s Own Country, a terror base
October 14, 2008 12:46 IST
A few years ago, the moment the word terror was mentioned, one’s mind easily shifted to Jammu and Kashmir.
However over the years, this scenario has changed and it is not only the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir which is associated with terror. Sleeper cells and terror modules galore were being set up across the country and according to security agencies and intelligence bureau officials states like Uttar Pradesh had becoming a breeding ground for terror activities.
However, now one sees a complete shift and it is becoming more and more clear that the costal belts of the country, especially Mangalore, have become a hub for terror.
While states like Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar and Assam are constantly under the IB watch, security agencies are now saying that Karnataka is the state to watch out for.
Karnataka has over the past two years become one of the most important states where terror is concerned after terror outfits found this state a safe haven to regroup in.
Not only did SIMI have its most crucial meeting in North Karnataka, but the entire process of recruiting youth from the IT background began there.
While North Karnataka remained the terror hub for nearly a year, the focus has now shifted towards Mangalore.
So what makes coastal Karnataka a hot spot for terror? A senior Karnataka police official says terror operatives decided to shift operations to this belt largely due to the numerous underworld activities.
Mangalore has always followed the Mumbai module, he says. Mangalore, being a port city, was the preferred destination for underworld dons.
The IB says that it is a well-established fact that terror operatives work closely with the underworld.
An IB official told rediff.com that most of the underworld dons are holed up in Pakistan.
The ISI’s directive to these persons is that they ought to help out in terror activities if they needed to hide in Pakistan. Help from the underworld would include sneaking in of arms and ammunition and counterfeit currency. Moreover, the money made through drug deals would have to be shared for terror operations. To cut a long story short, the ISI demands protection money from the underworld.
Coming back to Mangalore, the police say it has always been a hotbed for communal tension. Mangalore and other places in coastal Karnataka had seen violence in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition. To counter Hindu activists, outfits in Pakistan started to send out men to the coastal town. These persons did not immediately focus on terror activities. They coordinated more with the underworld, built up their base and for a long time only focused on creating communal tension, the police say.
It was around the same time that two men, Riaz and Iqbal Bhatkal, left to Pakistan and later returned to coastal Karnataka after undergoing training. The duo, based in Bhatkal also in coastal Karnataka, started to effect the change among Muslim youth in coastal Karnataka.
The Bhatkal brothers commenced their work in the year 2001 but it was only in 2003 that they started getting more and more aggressive where terror was concerned.
They selected groups in the district and tied up with several religious schools in the belt to stress on the concept of the Jihad.
The IB says that similar recruitment and training programmes were being undertaken in Northern Karnataka. While terror operatives had decided to carry out attacks through the modules in Northern Karnataka, the modules in coastal Karnataka were lying low. The brief was clear and that was the modules in the Mangalore belt would act as a back up in case operations from the Northern side failed.
Earlier, this year the police had a massive crackdown and crippled a large part of the terror module in Northern Karnataka.
Immediately after this, the modules in coastal Karnataka became active. The Bhatkal brothers rallied their men and ensured that operations in various parts of the country did not come to a halt. The bombs that were made in Hubli, according to the confession of Riazuddin Nasir were transported into Mangalore and then to the rest of the country. The Mumbai Anti-Terror Squad, too, has confirmed this fact. The ATS also said recently that the men who were arrested following Operation BAD were all linked closely to the Bhatkal brothers.
The Karnataka police say that they are approaching this problem with an iron fist. Policing has been increased and there is also a thorough check being conducted on illegal immigrants, the police say.
On IM trail, Karnataka beachfront is hotspot
Oct 17, 2008
BHATKAL, OCTOBER 16 : With rolling hills on one side and the shimmering Arabian Sea on the other, Jali beach in Bhatkal is a serene stretch of sand frequented by locals who come here to unwind after a hard day’s work. But if the Mumbai Police is to be believed, this picture-postcard location in coastal Karnataka is the Ground Zero of a new wave of home-grown terrorism. It is on a remote tip of this beach, they say, that six of the 20 Indian Mujahideen operatives arrested recently were trained in the use of arms and explosives.
A row of elegant and spacious beach bungalows overlooks this stretch. Built by the local Nawayath Muslims who migrated to the Gulf for employment and prospered, these houses are mostly empty when they are not rented out to the occasional tourists. On one end is the ‘American Bungalow’ — so named because its owner is settled comfortably in the US where he is said to own several fast food outlets.
At the other end is a bungalow named Bahrain House, in which Mumbai Police claim Indian Mujahideen kingpin Riyaz Bhatkal and several operatives stayed and held meetings. Its entrance is locked but entry is easily gained through a gaping hole in the wooden gate. Set in the centre of a large compound is a large bungalow along with an outhouse, a gazebo and sit-outs, owned by Dubai-based Abdul Gaffar Sadma.
Some locals who gather outside the gates reject the police claims. “It is simply not possible that terrorists trained here. These houses are picnic spots built by successful members of our community. They will never be given on rent to suspicious persons. The police claims are unbelievable. Instead of making up lies, they should catch the real culprits,” says A Damda, a Dubai-returned local who made his money in the construction business there.
But others like Vasant Devadiga say that there is some basis to the police story. “Since 2006, we have often heard gunfire and noises of explosions in this area at night. However, nobody bothered or was too afraid to do anything about it. Some had informed the local police, but even they turned a blind eye to the problem,” he said.
Police also raided Fatima Manzil, Riyaz and his elder brother Iqbal’s residence at Tingangundi Cross Road. Today, the house is conspicuous as all its windows remain shut. A knock on the door is answered by Iqbal’s five-year-old…