Tamil Nadu Police have unearthed an widespread terrorist network in the state that regularly kidnapped and demanded ransom from businessmen. Six of them, including a Bangladeshi woman, have been arrested by the police.
The network was led by S Thoufiq, who founded the Naam Manithar Katchi (we are people party) in Tamil Nadu, and had visited Bangladesh too. He is an absconding terrorist and an accused in the Mumbai serial blasts in 2008.
The breakthrough comes on the heels of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) filing a case against a few Bangladeshi nationals, including a former Bangladeshi Parliament member and his son, for abducting a Chennai-based girl from London.
Controversial Islamic preacher and Islamic Research Foundation founder Zakir Naik is among those against whom the case has been filed for abduction.
It all began unfolding on 7 August after a printing press owner, Diwan Akbar, was kidnapped from near his house at Muthialpet in the prime commercial area of Mannady in the metropolitan city.
Akbar owned a screen printing firm at Parry’s Corner, opposite the Madras High Court, and was reportedly involved in some illegal business too.
Knowing this, Thoufiq, in an effort to raise funds for his terrorist activities, posed as an NIA official and recorded his statements. He then took Akbar hostage and drove him away in his vehicle.
Akbar was kept in detention at a couple of places in the city for a couple of days. He was released only after his family paid a ransom of Rs 2 crore.
Though Akbar did not file a complaint, the Muthialpet Police took suo motu cognisance of the incident on being tipped off about it. It then led them to find the terrorist link. They registered a case and arrested Thoufiq besides two of his accomplices, Albert and Uma Maheswaran.
They also launched a hunt for others, three of whom were arrested by police in Coimbatore and Trichy. In Coimbatore, Abdul Kadar, a textile shop owner, and Sikkandar, a businessman, were arrested.
In Trichy, a Bangladesh national Salma was detained along with her two-year-old son. Thoufiq had brought Salma from Bangladesh for his activities. She and her son did not have any legal documents for their stay in India.
Further inquiries by the police revealed that Thoufiq was raising funds to support militant groups through such kidnappings and ransom demands. Besides founding the Naam Manidhar Katchi, he had also set up “Muslim Defence Force” and Iraivan Oruvaney (there is only one god) outfits.
Thoufiq also had links with another person, Imran, who had been extorting money from businessmen in north Chennai.
Times of India quoted an unidentified intelligence wing police official as saying that Thoufiq and Imran had funded some terror activities to trigger unrest in the country. A few other cases have also been found pending against both.
Besides, Thoufiq had been involved in a few militant activities in Mumbai, where police had filed cases against him. Police have now found that after being arrested in the Mumbai blasts case, he came out on bail but since then he has been absconding.
Thoufiq had targeted businessmen for kidnap and ransom since he believed they would not approach the police.
Posting on his party's Facebook page showed that last year, he protested against the hydrocarbon projects in the Cauvery delta, including by taking out a procession with his party members, and also opposed the methane bed gas project in Tamil Nadu.
Albert and Uma Maheswaran have been remanded to judicial custody, while Salma has been booked for illegal stay in India.
Tamil Nadu Police continue search operations to nab the others, including Imran, while the NIA will likely take over the investigations soon given its links to terrorists.
M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani
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