Kerala on high alert after intel agencies warn of possible terror attack
With the National Investigation Agency tracking suspected modules of the Islamic State in Kerala and neighbouring Tamil Nadu, intelligence agencies have warned that desperate sleeper cells of the terror outfit may carry out attacks in southern states, especially in Kerala to divert attention.
The intelligence reports were based on intercepted messages from terror outfits and the state machinery was alerted accordingly, intelligence insiders said. The IS network in south India had suffered a serious setback following a series of arrests from Kerala and Tamil Nadu after the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka.
Following the warning, security has been tightened in tourist spots in Kochi and surrounding areas. “We don’t want to create unnecessary panic. But we are keeping a strict vigil in major cities and coastal areas,” a senior official said.
There was another similar alert last month. Agencies had warned the state that at least 15 IS militants had set off from the Sri Lankan coast on a fishing vessel and they headed towards either Kerala or Lakshadweep. After this, the coastal police had strengthened patrolling on the seas and advised all fishing vessels to carry proper identification documents.
Police sources said the busted IS module in Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu had close links with Kerala terror groups and a deportee from Qatar had admitted that some of the arrested men including Mohamed Azaruddin regularly interacted with their Kerala counterparts. This man, a native of Palakkad, was deported from Qatar for suspected terror links in 2015. The police are worried over this information which showed that some of these cells were active four years ago.
According to officials, radical activities in Sri Lanka had affected the state in the past also. An IS mastermind had recruited two groups of people from Kasargode and Kannur in 2016 and helped them to move to their destination in Syria and Afghanistan through a safe house in Colombo. Out of 21 people missing from north Kerala, relatives had information about the death of six.
The suspected suicide bomber arrested from Palakkad after the Lanka blasts, Riyas Aboobacker, reportedly told NIA sleuths that he was asked by an IS operative Abdul Raashid, who slipped out of the country with 21 others, including children and women three years ago, to carry out suicide attacks at popular tourist destinations of the state. He said he could not carry out the attacks as he failed to get explosive material and support from his companions.
The state was on high alert after the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka which claimed more than 250 lives. Sri Lankan army chief General Mahesh Senanayake had said in an interview that some of the suicide bombers had visited Kerala and Jammu and Kashmir “for some sort of training.”
After the Sri Lanka blasts, the National Investigation Agency had carried out massive search operations in Kerala and Tamil Nadu and arrested many IS sympathizers, including a suspected suicide bomber Riyaz Aboobacker from Palakkad and Mohamed Azaruddin from Coimbatore.