The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has yet again found a political connection in its investigation into the new Islamic State module in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, officials said.
The NIA which carried out searches at over seven places in Coimbatore, including the residence and office premises of the accused, seized pamphlets belonging to the Popular Front of India (PFI) and its political arm, the Social Democratic Party of India (SDMI), officials said.
"The NIA is trying to join the loose ends following its searches in Tamil Nadu's Coimbatore," an NIA source said on Wednesday.
The PFI is considered an Islamic outfit and has been under the Central agency's scanner for long.
The PFI role surfaced for the first time in 2013, when the NIA took over the case of Kannur's Narath arms training camp. The investigation hinted at the possibility of camp organizers having links with terrorist groups such as the Indian Mujahideen.
The NIA said Islamists have been holding jehadi recruitment camps regularly in the northern Kerala district for several years.
The probe into Narath terror camp also highlighted how the terror recruitment centres held in Kannur produced many suspects in terror strikes that have taken place in the country in the past two decades.
The PFI was formed in November 2006 as a loose confederation of National Development Front of Kerala, Manitha Neethi Pasari and Karnataka Forum for Dignity. It later expanded its base and became an all-India organisation.
In 2012, the Kerala government banned the Freedom parade conducted by PFI, alleging the activities of the organisation were inimical to the state.
On Wednesday, following the raids at seven places in Coimbatore, the NIA arrested Mohammed Azarudeen, a social media friend of the Sri Lankan terrorist who masterminded the April suicide bombings in the island nation.
The searches are part of a NIA probe into a new Islamic State module in India.
An NIA official in New Delhi said the case was registered on May 30 against Azarudeen, 32, Akram Sindhaa, 26, Y. Shiek Hidayathullah, 38, Abubacker M. 29, Sadham Hussain, 26, and Ibrahim alias Shahin Shah, 28 -- all residents of Coimbatore.
The case was registered after information was received that the accused and their associates were propagating the ideology of proscribed terrorist organization IS Daish on social media with the intention of recruiting vulnerable youth into the group and carrying out terrorist attacks in South India, especially in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
Officials said one of the persons whose premises were searched was Azarudeen, a Facebook friend of the mastermind of the Easter bombings, Zahran Hashim, that killed over 250 people in Sri Lanka.
Azarudeen has been the leader of the module and has been maintaining the Facebook page named 'KhilafahGFX', through which he had been propagating the ideology of ISIS/ Daish.
The NIA official said other members of the module have also been sharing radical contents attributed to Hashim, over the social media. The suicide attack was blamed by Colombo on a Sri Lankan Islamist group although the Islamic State claimed responsibility.
The official said that another accused, Ibrahim, has been a close associate of arrested accused Riyas Abubacker in IS Kasaragod module case, who had planned to conduct terrorist attacks in Kerala, on behalf of the IS Daish module.
The NIA had arrested Abubacker on April 29 earlier this year. Abubacker had informed the NIA officials that he has been following Hashim for more than a year and has also followed the speeches of Zakir Naik, an absconding Indian Islamic preacher and the founder of the Islamic Research Foundation.
During questioning, Abubacker admitted that he wanted to carry out a suicide attack in Kerala. He was being questioned by the NIA on April 28 when the counter-terror probe agency unearthed the Kasargod module of the terrorist outfit in Kerala during multiple raids at the house of three suspects.
According to the NIA, as part of the conspiracy, 14 accused from Kasaragod left India or their work places in the Middle East between May and July 2016 before travelling to Afghanistan or Syria where they joined the Islamic State.
Last month, the NIA searched 10 places in Tamil Nadu in connection with the investigation into the Islamic State module where some people allegedly conspired to raise funds to wage war against the state.
NIA officials visited Sri Lanka this month in connection with their investigation.
The NIA also seized digital devices including 14 mobile phones, 29 SIM cards, 10 pen drives, three laptops, six memory cards, four hard disc drives, one internet dongle and 13 CDs/ DVDs besides one dagger, one electric baton, 300 air-gun pellets and a large number of incriminating documents from the houses and work places of accused persons.
The official said the accused are being questioned about the incriminating materials seized during the searches.
(Anand Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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