The National Investigation Agency (NIA) conducted raids in Tamil Nadu and Kerala on Thursday in connection with the Coimbatore blast, in which one person was killed when an LPG cylinder inside a vehicle he was driving exploded near a temple on October 23.
The NIA took over the investigation on October 27 after Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin recommended it, amid concerns that the incident may have ramifications beyond the state’s borders and international connections.
So far, six people have been arrested.
According to people familiar with the situation, the investigation agency raided 44 locations in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. It searched in eight Tamil Nadu districts, primarily Chennai, Coimbatore, Thiruvallur, Tiruppur, Nilgiris, Chengalpattu, Kanchipuram, and Nagapattinam, as well as Palakkad in Kerala.
Jameesha Mubin was charred to death in suspicious circumstances after an LPG cylinder inside a vehicle he was driving exploded near Kottai Eswaran temple in Ukkadam around 4am on October 23, the day before Diwali. The incident occurred about 200 metres from a police patrol.
The deceased was named as the primary suspect in the blast. In this case, the state police used the harsh Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
“According to preliminary investigations, the accused, Jameesha Mubin, after taking bayah (oath of allegiance) to the global outfit Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, was planning to carry out suicidal attacks and cause extensive damage to symbols and monuments of a specific religious faith, with the intention of striking terror among a specific section of the community,” the NIA said in a statement.
“The accused (arrested) persons conspired with the deceased to procure various chemicals and other ingredients for fabrication of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), including a vehicle-borne IED, from online shopping platforms in order to commit sensational terrorist acts,” the statement continued.
During the raids, the agency said it seized digital devices and incriminating documents.
The NIA suspects a larger conspiracy in the case because Mubin and the six arrested men communicated with Mohammad Azharuddin from Ukkadam, who is currently imprisoned for alleged links to ISIS and the deadly Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka in 2019.
Local police also recovered 75 kgs of potassium nitrate, charcoal, sulphur, and aluminium powder, all of which were used to make explosives, from Mubin’s home in Ukkadam.
In 2018, the NIA launched an investigation into an ISIS module in Coimbatore led by Azharuddin. Based on its findings, Indian agencies issued three warnings to Sri Lankan security agencies about a possible major strike there.
Following the bombings in Sri Lanka that killed over 250 people, the NIA opened a case on its own against six people from Coimbatore.
During the investigation, the NIA discovered that Azharuddin and his associate, Sheikh Hidayatulla, were in contact with bombings mastermind Maulvi Zahran bin Hashim and were planning similar attacks in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
As previously reported by sources, Hashim and Mohammad Azaan, one of the suicide bombers in the Sri Lanka attacks, visited India in 2017 and 2018 to discuss Islamic State plans.