Bengaluru police bust terror ‘sleeper cell’; 11 held

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A fortnight after the hate campaign, allegedly launched by Pakistan’s ISI, which triggered the mass exodus of North-Easterners from Bengaluru, the Central Crime Branch of the City police cracked a huge network of sleeper cells, who owe allegiance to proscribed terror outfits — Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) and Harkat-ul-Jihad-Al- Islami (HuJI).

In simultaneous operations in Bengaluru and Hubli, they arrested 11 men including a journalist, a doctor and an engineer with a defence organization for their alleged involvement in a conspiracy to eliminate some top BJP leaders, politicians and pro-BJP journalists.

State Police Chief Lalrokhuma Pachau said that the 11 arrested have links with banned Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and HuJI terror groups. Bengaluru City Police Commissioner Jyothi Prakash Mirji said the 11 suspects were acting at the behest of handlers in Saudi Arabia.

“CCB sleuths have been watching the movements of these suspects over the last few days, after we received inputs from central intelligence agencies. The arrests were made at Bengaluru and Hubli by the CCB sleuths on Wednesday. The CCB sleuths have recovered a foreign made 7.65mm pistol along with seven live rounds and other materials,” Mirji said.

Well educated, Well employed, and plotting?

The 11 suspects, who have been arrested for alleged terror links and possession of arms, are all in their mid to late twenties and hail from Hubli. They are also from different walks of life and include an engineer, a doctor, an MBA graduate, a journalist, an electrician, a construction contractor, a technician, a salesman and a BCA graduate.

While five shared a room in Bengaluru, the rest lived in Hubli. At least three boys sharing a room in Mubarak Mohalla come from the same neighbourhood in Hubli and two are brothers.

Of the five arrested in Bengaluru, Muthiur Rehman Siddiqui (26) is a journalist with an English daily, Ajaz Mohammed Mirja (25) is an engineer at DRDO, Riyaz Ahmed Byahatti (28) is a BCA graduate working as a salesman, Mohammed Yusuf Nalabandh (28) is a salesman and Shoaib Ahmed Mirja alias Chotu (25) is an MCA student.

Wahid Hussain alias Sahil (26) who was picked up from Hubli is an MBA graduate, who has been unemployed for the last two years. He worked for a mobile company for a few months, but is said to have been engrossed most of the time with his education, and religious activities.

Baba alias Mehboob Bagalukote (26) ,also detained in Hubli, is a school dropout making a living in construction. He is the sole breadwinner of a family of 11 including an old father and mother.

Dr Zafar Iqbal Sollapuri (27) is an MBBS graduate , pursuing his MS. He secured the 104th rank in the CET and married a woman who is also a doctor two months ago. His father is assistant conservator of forests (ACF) working with the watershed department in Udupi.

Mohammed Sadik Lashkar alias Raju (28) , who is an electrician from Koulpet area in Hubli, was picked up from his sister's house at Mantur road.

Obedulla Imran Bahadduri alias Sameer alias Imran (24) studied at the Nettur Technical Training Foundation in Dharwad and was reportedly planning to go to China for employment.

My son is innocent: Doctor's father

His son’s arrest has surprised and distressed Assistant Conservator of Forests (ACF) Sheikh Rafiq Ahmed Solapuri, employed with the watershed development department in Udupi.

Married just two months ago, Zafar Solapuri was the 104th rank holder in the Common Entrance Test (CET) and had been preparing to do his MS after completing his MBBS from the Karnataka Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS) at Hubli.

“My son was studying with his wife who is also a doctor, when the six-member team of the CCB police arrested him. None of my three sons are associated with any kind of anti-national activity. They are CET rank-holders. Ours is a conservative, reputed and patriotic family. We will fight for early release of my son as he is honest and of good character,” said Ahmed Solapuri, who had rushed to Bengaluru on hearing of his son’s arrest and met police officers to find out why they were taking him into custody.

Zafar’s mother too described him as hardworking. He was trying to get a posting at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, she said, seemingly shocked by the turn of events.

Journalist's family gets a shock on holiday

The family of journalist Matiur Rehman Siddiqui, who were holidaying in Bijapur, is in a state of shock after they were informed on Wednesday night about his detention.

On Wednesday, after Police Commissioner Jyothiprakash Mirji announced that 11 people, including Matiur Rehman, had been arrested on charges of possessing arms and for possible terror links, the family found it 'unbelievable'.

“What do I say to an accusation like this? And, who is going to believe what I have to say? But, people who know my brother would believe that he cannot do such a thing. How can a person like Muthi, who cannot raise his voice against others, pick up a pistol”, questioned Ata-ur-Rahman Siddiqui, the older brother of Matiur Rahman.

The brothers have lost their parents. Ata-ur-Rehman, who is arriving in Bengaluru on Friday, said: “Let the police investigate if they have a doubt, but let them clarify on what charges he was picked up and where he is. Our biggest trouble till Thursday evening was that we had no idea what charges the police had pressed against my brother.

"We had no clue where Matiur was. Our neighbours were trying to check with the police to get some clarity on his detention and charges against him. Now that they have clarified on the arrest, they are talking about terror links.

“I really do not know how to react to this. We come from a family where going to the police station is a huge thing. I have been to a police station only once — for passport verification. I really do not know how to react. My brother, having been raised in a good environment and being a good human being, can never think of anything related to violence”.

“We have been really worried and confused since last night. The entire family was in Bijapur for a holiday. I last spoke to my brother at 11 pm on Tuesday. I was trying to call him on Wednesday evening but his phone was switched off. I was a little worried as it is a bit unusual. I assumed he was busy with work till I received a call from my brother’s friend at 8:30 pm on Wednesday. He informed me that the Crime Branch picked up Matiur along with his other four roommates,” Ata-ur-Rehman said.

“We have also been trying to get in touch with Matiur’s employers so that they can communicate with the police on this case. I returned to Hubli on Thursday and will be leaving for Bengaluru on Thursday night,” Siddiqui said.

‘He cannot do anything anti-national’

“My brother Matiur is a very nice guy. He is the most cool-headed among five brothers. He does not even raise his voice against anybody. He cannot possibly do anything that is anti-national. Everybody in the neighbourhood appreciates him for being a good student and of good character,” said Ata-ur-Rehman, who lives in Hubli.

Matiur Rehman has five brothers, and one sister.

“We have lost both our parents. My father died in 2006 and we lost our mother in September last year. Our mother’s demise has had a great impact on Muthi who has become very quiet since then. Even when he comes home, he does not talk much. He used to call us often when mother was alive, now he doesn’t. We complain saying that he has forgotten us and keeps busy with his work. But, we know it’s mother’s death that has impacted him,” the brother said.

On rumours that Matiur Rehman’s mobile phone was often switched off, Ata-ur-Rehman said: “I bought a phone for him from the Gulf. But it would hang often. He complained and got himself a cheap phone which used to run out of battery often. He never switched off his phone off otherwise. If that were the case, I would not have been so worried last night when I found his phone off.”

The reporter, who will turn 27 on September 9, was engaged to be married recently. “Matiur’s marriage has been finalised. We haven’t decided on a date yet, but he is informally engaged,” Ata-ur-Rehman said.

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