Riyas's suicide bombing plan in Kerala shock villagers

Riyas, who was arrested by NIA sleuths on Monday, was learnt to have confessed that he was asked by the IS operatives, who earlier went from Kerala, to plan a suicide bomber at any international tourist spots. PTI file photo

As reports that 29-year old youth Riyas Aboobacker held by the NIA from Palakkad in central Kerala was planning a suicide bomber strike at any tourist destinations came in, the people of Muthalamada, a small village about 30 kilometres from Palakkad town in central Kerala, were quite shocked.

Though Riyas had not much connection in Muthalamada where his family has been staying over the four years, other members of his family were having a good relationship with the local people. Many in the locality, which is hardly 10 kilometres away from Tamil Nadu border, had the impression that Riyas was a hardcore Islamic believer, but never thought that he is having links with international terrorist outfits.

Riyas, who was arrested by NIA sleuths on Monday, was learnt to have confessed that he was asked by the IS operatives, who earlier went from Kerala, to plan a suicide bomber at any international tourist spots. But that did not work out as he did not get support from his companions. Hence he was even planning terror strikes by himself, Riyas was learnt to have confessed.

Riyas's father has been running a small textile shop at Kambrathuchalla at Muthalamada, which is close to Chulliyar dam. The family comprising Aboobacker, his wife and two sons were earlier staying at another nearby place Chappakad where the family had some agricultural land. Riyas was the youngest son. His elder brother is said to be working as a salesman in a jewellery shop in Tamilnadu.

A neighbour of Aboobacker, who do not want to be identified, told DH that all members of the family, except Riyas, had a cordial relationship with the family and they used to attend prayers at the nearby mosque also. Riyas was not present at the home most of the time and was said to be involved in sale of Attar and Islamic prayer caps. He also did not come for prayers at the nearby mosque even if he is at home. "Despite being a neighbour, I had hardly seen him over these years," he said.

Another resident of Muthalamada and a local body representative K Sateesh said that the area had vast forest areas, which could be good hideouts for such operations. "We suspected that there are many youths in the locality who are hardcore Islamic believers, but did not suspect any terrorist activities so far," he said.

The local police and intelligence officials were totally in the dark about terrorist activities taking planned in the locality. "Though the area has isolated forest areas, the political activists of the locality were quite active. Hence we would get to know about illegal activity taking place in the locality," said a senior police officer of Palakkad.

Local MLA K Babu said that earlier there were reports that some persons associated with the 1998 Coimbatore blasts had links with Palakkad. But we had not even any suspicions of any youths in the locality having terrorist links.

Over these years, the NIA had come across many youths having IS links in Kerala, especially in Northern parts of the state. A group of over 20, including couples and their children, from Kerala, crossed borders to join IS camps in 2016. In 2017 the NIA registered cases against five persons from Valapattanam in Kannur district for NIA links. The probe into these cases had revealed the links of Riyas with IS. He was said to be in constant touch with many of these persons. In the last two years, around ten Kerala natives who joined IS were also reported killed.

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