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Bengaluru cafe blast: Accused on state police radar since 2020

By, Bengaluru, New Delhi
Apr 13, 2024 07:45 AM IST

A Karnataka police officer said that the state government will seek custody of the suspects within the next few days.

Forty-two days after they allegedly set off a bomb at the popular Rameshwaram Cafe in Bengaluru, Mussavir Hussain Shazib and Abdul Matheen Ahmed Taahaa, both 30 years old, were arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) from Kolkata on Friday. But investigators who have been looking into their antecedents for the last month-and-a-half, said that the names of the two men have popped up in their investigations into terror modules operational in southern India, particularly an ISIS module based out of Shivamogga.

One Karnataka police officer said, “In all the arrests made since the graffiti case to the Bengaluru blast case, we have found involvement of Shazib and Taahaa.” (PTI)
One Karnataka police officer said, “In all the arrests made since the graffiti case to the Bengaluru blast case, we have found involvement of Shazib and Taahaa.” (PTI)

Also Read | Bengaluru Rameswaram Cafe blast case: 2 absconders arrested from Bengal

Karnataka police officials said Shazib and Taahaa were prominent members of what they have identified as the “Thirthahalli module”, named after the town in Shivamogga from where they operated. They first emerged on the state police’s radar in 2020, when graffiti was drawn on walls near a police station in Mangaluru, which warned that the group would be “forced to invite Lashkar-e-Taiba and Taliban” into the country. In the case, NIA arrested Arafath Ali, who fled from India to Dubai and then to Kenya, in September 2023, after he was deported from the African country.

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The module was also responsible for a low-intensity IED blast in an auto-rickshaw in Mangaluru in November 20, which left Mohammad Shariq, the man who was transporting the explosive and a part of the module, injured. Senior NIA officials said they believe that the module had between 10 and 12 men, including Shazib and Taahaa, and subsequent inquiries by central agencies showed that they received funds through crypto-wallets from abroad.

One Karnataka police officer said, “In all the arrests made since the graffiti case to the Bengaluru blast case, we have found involvement of Shazib and Taahaa.”

He added that the two men, both belonging to Thirthahalli, have been implicated in three incidents of terror — the graffiti found in Mangaluru in October 2020, a trial detonation of an IED device along the banks of the Tunga river in Shivamogga in September 2022, and a pressure cooker bomb explosion in an auto-rickshaw in Mangaluruin November 2022. Across these three cases, four arrests have taken place, with Taahaa and Shazib accused in all of them.“From the investigations, it was clear that the duo was running the group and there were concerns about them recruiting others. With the arrests, we hope this will be the end of the gang for good,” the officer added.

Also Read | Rameshwaram Cafe blast: Who are the main accused held by NIA near Kolkata?

The officer quoted above said that the state government will seek custody of the suspects within the next few days, and over the next few days, will be in touch with central agencies to identify any further recruits that are part of their module. But Karnataka, officers said, wasn’t the only southern state where the names of two men were under a cloud. In January 2020, A Wilson, a special sub-inspector in Kaliyakkavilai, Tamil Nadu, was shot and stabbed to death. A week later, Abdul Shameem and Thowfeek were arrested, and the charge sheet said that the officer was murdered with the “intention to create terror... as part of waging violent jihad.”

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The TN police traced the origin of the attack to the Al Hind terror module, inspired by the Islamic State — operating out of Bengaluru’s Suddaguntepalya. Shazib and Taahaa were also members of this group, Karnataka police officers said. In 2021, in a supplementary charge sheet in a case against the Al Hind module, NIA said the two men, Mehboob Pasha and Khaja Moideen, formed a terrorist gang by recruiting young Muslims in south India, saying that the group held several “criminal conspiracy meetings” since April 2019 in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Arun Dev is an Assistant Editor with the Karnataka bureau of Hindustan Times. A journalist for over 10 years, he has written extensively on crime and politics.

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