A 32-year-old man from Tamil Nadu, who was a "Facebook friend" with one of the suicide bombers of the deadly Easter attacks in Sri Lanka that killed over 200 people in April, was arrested on Wednesday for heading an Islamic State (IS) module in South India.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) recorded the arrest of Mohammed Azarudeen on Wednesday night after questioning him and his five accomplices for nearly 12 hours in Coimbatore in western Tamil Nadu. Officials said Azarudeen was not just friends with Zahran Hashim, one of the bombers, on Facebook but was actively involved in propagating the messages of the suicide bomber on the social media platform.
Azarudeen and his aides were questioned by the NIA during searches at their residences in Coimbatore following the lodging of a case against them for allegedly propagating the ideology of terror outfit, IS, on social media to recruit new members for carrying out attacks in South India.
Azarudeen is the leader of the module and has been maintaining a Facebook page named “KhilafahGFX”, through which he propagated the ideology of IS and has also been sharing radical contents attributed to the Sri Lankan suicide bomber, the agency said.
However, Azarudeen’s direct connection with the blasts in Sri Lanka have not been established so far. National Thowheed Jamaat, a little-known organisation in Sri Lanka, had claimed responsibility for the attacks that shook the tiny island nation on April 21. The NTJ is a splinter group of Sri Lanka Thowheed Jamaat, an offshoot of Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamaat (TNTJ), an organisation based in Chennai.
The TNTJ has denied any links with the NTJ and condemned the blasts as well. Speaking about the arrests, NIA officials said the six persons were propagating the ideology of proscribed terrorist organisation IS on social media with the intention of recruiting vulnerable youth into the IS for carrying out terrorist attacks in South India especially in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
Besides Azarudeen, the residences of Akram Sindhaa (26), Y Shiek Hidayathullah (38), Abubacker (29), Sadham Hussain A (26) and Ibrahim alias Shahin Shah (28) were also raided on Wednesday. NIA officials said Ibrahim is also a close associate of arrested accused Riyas Abubacker, who had planned to conduct terrorist attacks in Kerala, on behalf of the IS.
Coimbatore has had troubled past with regard to terrorism — serial blasts carried out by Al-Ummah that struck the Manchester of South India on February 14, 1998, during an election rally killing more than 50 people.
“During the searches digital devices including 14 mobile phones, 29 SIM cards, 10 pen drives, 3 laptops, 6 memory cards, 4 hard disc drives, 1 internet dongle and 13 CDs/ DVDs besides one dagger, one electric baton, 300 air-gun pellets and a large no. of incriminating documents and few PFI/ SDMI pamphlets have been seized from the houses and workplaces of accused persons,” the officials said.