Mangaluru blast: A case of terrorist attack using forged identity, and a Coimbatore connect?

As NIA, forensic teams reach the spot, a railway employee whose Aadhaar card was used in the case comes forward.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Nov 20, 2022 | 3:41 PM Updated Nov 20, 2022 | 3:43 PM

Investigators inspecting the autorickshaw in which the blast occurred. Remains of the pressure cooker. (Supplied)

Even as the Karnataka DGP Praveen Sood said on Sunday, 20 November, that the blast on Saturday in an autorickshaw in Mangaluru was not an accident but an “act of terror”, the Mangaluru City Police assured appealed to the people not to panic.

The police also said that they were jointly probing the incident with Central investigative agencies to ascertain the facts behind the blast.

The reference was to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) that reached the spot to aid in the investigation.

This, even as the “real” Premaraj — whose identification papers were found on the site of the blast — assured people that he was in no way involved in the blast.

The blast was reported near Garody in Mangaluru. The autorickshaw driver was identified as one Purushotham, who sustained severe injuries and was being treated at a local hospital.

Details of the blast emerge

According to the sources, “The passenger, who is a suspect in this blast, was reportedly carrying papers that identified him as Premaraj. He was also reportedly carrying a press cooker — an improvised explosive device (IED) — with him.”

The police sources named him as “the prime and only suspect in this blast”.

They said he reportedly visited multiple cities in South India, and even procured a Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card using a fake identity card in Coimbatore,” claimed sources in the police.

Also read: Coimbatore car blast shocks Muslims, disturbs Hindus

“Cops are close to establishing his identity. He is reportedly a resident of Karnataka. The police are likely to ascertain whether the accused had any connections with the banned outfits,” said the police sources

Forensic, NIA teams on the spot

The Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) teams have reportedly reached the spot.

They are taking stock of the situation and collecting evidence in the presence of local police personnel.

Meanwhile, Mangaluru City Police Commissioner Shashi Kumar has formed three special teams to probe the blast incident.

A team of officials from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has also arrived in Mangaluru.

The team, comprising four officials, has reached the blast site and is taking stock of the situation in Garody, where the incident occurred.

Siddaramaiah condemns ‘intelligence failure’

Karnataka Legislative Assembly’s Leader of the Opposition, Siddaramaiah condemned the incident and termed it an “intelligence failure”.

The former Karnataka chief minister demanded a quick probe into the incident and the arrest of the culprits.

In a tweet, Siddaramaiah said, “DGP Praveen Sood has confirmed that the blast in Mangaluru is an act of terror. I strongly condemn this act of violence and urge the police to immediately arrest those responsible for the act.”

Taking a dig at Intelligence, he pointed out, “The blast has exposed the failure of the intelligence department, and the home minister should accept the responsibility.”

He added, “I urge people not to panic and give leads to the police about all the suspected persons,” appealed Siddaramaiah while condemning this terrorist act.

The real Premaraj stands up

Affirming that he has zero connection with the Mangaluru blast, Premaraj Hutagi — whose Aadhaar card was used by the prime suspect — said, “I am a resident of Hubballi. I have been employed as a track maintainer in the railways in the Tumakuru section since 2019.”

He added: “I also work as a gateman in railways. The Police Sub-Inspector from Hubballi contacted me, when I was on duty as a gateman on Saturday evening, with a connection to the Mangaluru blast.” added Premaraj.

Stating that he has been cooperating with the police, Premaraj said, “The police have also quizzed my parents on this case. They have also collected all the details about my travel history. At the time of the incident, I was on duty at a railway gate in Tumakuru.”

He added: “I have no connection with the Mangaluru blast incident. I lost my Aadhaar card twice. The first time I lost it around two and half years ago, and the second time was probably six months ago. I did not file any complaint, believing I would recover it later.”

He rued: “I never had an idea that someone would misuse my identity card in unlawful activities. I will cooperate with the investigation officers.”