Involvement of two youth in their early twenties in two blasts that have occurred in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka within the span of 30 days have raised concerns of radicalization of youth in the South.
The antecedents of the youth are under investigation and will be highlighted with the National Investigation Agency (NIA) attempting to get to the roots of their motivations.
Nevertheless when Popular Front of India [PFI] was banned under the UAPA by the central government there were some concerns that activists of the group could undertake terrorist attacks. It is not clear that the two youth who have been arrested in Mangaluru and in Coimbatore are linked to the PFI or are cases of radicalization of individuals which could have occurred on the web given propaganda by inimical forces of persecution of the minority community in the country.
Yet there is a necessity for early consideration of possibility of radicalisation of several youth and recommence deradicalization and counter radicalisation responses.
Here is a review -
Coimbatore Blast Ominous Warning
An LPG cylinder exploded inside a Maruti 800 car in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu on October 23. The blast occurred after 29-year-old Jameesha Mubin, driving a Maruti car caught fire after explosion, leading to his death.
Mubin was the owner of the car used in the blast ahead of Diwali in which 109 incriminating materials were seized including potassium nitrate, black powder, match box, two-metre long cracker fuse, nitro-glycerin, red phosphorus, PETN powder, aluminium powder, wire, iron nails, switch, Indane gas cylinder, gas regulator, insulation tape, packing tape, hand gloves and others.
Ideological material linking to Islamic extremism was also seized from the premises of the individual as per the Hindustan Times.
Mubin is said to have been on the radar of the counter terror agencies in 2018 over alleged links, and was said to be in touch with ISIS module head Mohammad Azharuddin in Coimbatore, who is in jail.
The Whatsapp status of Mubin has also led agencies to investigate a terror plot angle and whether there were plans to execute explosions at Koniyamman and Kottai Easwaran Temples in Coimbatore.
Mubin’s Radical Links
29 year old Mubin who was killed in the car blast in front of a temple in Coimbatore, was among the 150 persons who were on the watch list of intelligence units as per the Hindu.
The NIA is now investigating role of an Islamic jihadist network in the October 23 blast in front of Sangameshwarar Temple at Ukkadam in Coimbatore.
The Special Intelligence Cell (SIC) and Special Intelligence Unit (SIU) were observing their activities for alleged support to terror outfits such as the Islamic State.
Two alerts were circulated as per the Hindu. The first on July 19, was issued after riot following the death of a Class XII girl at a school in Kallakurichi on July 17. In the list of 96 persons Mubin was listed 89th reports the Hindu.
After the UAPA ban Popular Front of India (PFI) an alert was issued on October 18, of possible attacks on majority organisations and leaders.
Though so far there is no link between the PFI and Mubin who appears to have been radicalized over a period.
As per the Week, police arrested five in connection with the blast-Mohammad Thalka (25), Mohammad Asarudheen (25) of Ukkadam; Mohammad Riyaz (27), Feroz Ismail (27) and Mohammad Navaz Ismail (27) of GM Nagar in Coimbatore. Thalka is reportedly the nephew of banned terrorist organisation Al Ummah chief S.A. Basha, who was involved in the 1998 Coimbatore bomb blasts reports the Week.
The NIA investigated Mubin after he was found to be attending Bayan classes at a mosque in Coimbatore, run by Tamil Nadu Thowheeth Jamath (TNTJ). TNTJ general secretary R. Abdul Kareem however refuted the allegations of radicalization in the Bayan classes which he claimed preached humanity and not enmity as per the Week.
Mangaluru autorickshaw blast
A blast in autorickshaw in Mangaluru in Karnataka on November 19 has now been categorized as an act of terror as per State police chief Praveen Sood. “It’s confirmed now. The blast is not accidental but an act of terror with the intention to cause serious damage. Karnataka police is probing deep into it along with central agencies,” the director general of police (DGP) wrote on Twitter.
The autorickshaw caught fire in Mangaluru city in which the driver and a passenger sustained burn injuries after an explosion. A cooker fitted with detonator, wires and batteries was found during the investigation at the site after the blast.
The autorickshaw passenger identified as Mohammed Shariq is the main suspect and has previously been booked under the UAPA and was absconding in a terror case.
Karnataka ADGP Alok Kumar has said that the link to the Coimbatore blast cannot be established at this point.
“The suspect has links to some terror activities in the past also and has alleged links with some terror outfits which are banned,” Praveen Sood said. “He was misusing the Aadhaar card of one Premraj, a resident of Hubballi. Premraj works with the Indian Railways in Tumakuru. Premraj lost his Aadhaar card six months ago which was supposedly found by the suspect and has been misusing it. This is certainly a blast which is related to terror activity,” Sood added.
History of Blasts in Coimbatore
Coimbatore has a history of blasts as T S Subramanian records in a report in the Frontline on March 07, 1998. On February 14, 13 bomb attacks were recorded in the City to include forty-six persons in separate blasts in 11 places, within a 12-km radius.
Ten more persons were killed records the Frontline: six suspected fundamentalists following a police raid on February 15, and four teenaged boys died following a stray blast in Al-Ameen Colony on February 17.
The blasts were reported to have been carried out by Al-Umma, a Muslim fundamentalist organisation based in Kottaimedu, a predominantly minority area in Coimbatore.
Counter Radicalisation Measures
The incidents in Coimbatore and Mangaluru indicate radicalisation of individuals as well as small groups which needs to be explored. Monitoring radicalized youth and counter radicalization has assumed importance after the crackdown on the PFI however the local police and the central agencies have not demonstrated a major drive towards the same.
Foreign antagonist organisations and agencies such as the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan and global terrorist organisations as the Islamic State were expected to attract radicalised members of the PFI who have not been caught in the NIA dragnet. These are expected to be operating underground through sleeper cells.
Neutralisation of radicalisation activities will assume importance to proactively prevent a terrorist incident.
Political engagement of the sections of society that were attracted by the PFI and the Social Democratic Party of India [SDPI] and softening their extremist views is also essential for which grass roots groups will have to be mustered apart from a sophisticated information campaign countering the radicalisation narrative.
This is a long process but may have to be undertaken nonetheless soonest if not already on the radar of national security managers.