Mangaluru blast case: Tamil Nadu police intensifies investigation into Mohammed Shariq visit to Coimbatore

Despite similarities between the Coimbatore and Mangaluru blasts, Tamil Nadu police say they have not found anything linking the two incidents so far.

ByShilpa Nair

Published Nov 23, 2022 | 1:03 PMUpdatedNov 23, 2022 | 1:04 PM

Mangaluru blast

Days after a low-intensity blast was reported in Mangaluru on 19 November, which the Karnataka DGP Praveen Sood termed as an “act of terror”, the Coimbatore police has intensified its investigation as it emerged that the main accused in the case, 24-year-old Mohammed Shariq, had stayed in Coimbatore for a few days in September.

According to a senior Tamil Nadu police officer who spoke to South First, Shariq had stayed in a dormitory in Coimbatore by providing a fake identity proof.

The cops are now trying to ascertain as to why he had come to the city, the people whom he could have possibly met, and other places he may have visited in Coimbatore.

When it became evident that Shariq had travelled to Coimbatore, it immediately raised suspicions of authorities in Tamil Nadu as a similar incident had occurred in the Ukkadam area of the city on 23 October.

In that incident, a Maruti-800 car laden with explosive materials and LPG cylinders had exploded outside the Kottai Eswaran temple, killing 29-year-old Jamesha Mubin.

No link yet between Coimbatore, Mangaluru blasts

There are several similarities between the two incidents. For example, both Shariq and Mubin have been identified by officials as highly radicalised men who were plotting terror attacks.

While Mubin had come on the radar of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in 2018 for attending bayan classes held by members of the Azharuddin-led terror module, Shariq is one of the two conspirators in the 2020 Mangaluru graffiti case, and was also booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for his involvement in alleged anti-national activities and suspected connections to banned terrorist organisations.

Sharif had been absconding since.

Furthermore, when the police searched the residence of Mubin after the car explosion, they found around 75 kgs of explosive materials like potassium nitrate, aluminium powder, charcoal, sulphur, etc.

Even in the Mangaluru case, upon searching one of the houses where Shariq had stayed in Mysuru for about 40 days, the police recovered three pressure cookers, circuit boards, mobile phone panels, wires, batteries, bolts and explosive material.

In Mubin’s case, the cops also recovered his notes which talked about jihad and bomb-making among other things. There was also an Islamic State-like flag which was drawn on a children’s slate with chalk.

With respect to Shariq, the police found pictures of him dressed and posing in ISIS-like style with a pressure cooker.

Likewise, if it was a Maruti-800 car that exploded in the Coimbatore blast case, in Mangaluru, the explosion took place in an auto-rickshaw, injuring Shariq and the driver.

The somewhat similar modus operandi in both cases have led to the authorities to suspect that Mubin and Shariq were being operated by the same handler.

However, senior officials in the police department told South First that, so far, they have not found any connecting links between the two incidents and the two individuals.

Probe so far

According to Tamil Nadu police, one of the major challenges they are facing with respect to the probe around Shariq’s movement in Coimbatore is the lack of enough CCTV footage. Some of the footage was overwritten automatically as he had stayed in the city two months back. They are now trying to trace his movements based on call records.

The sim card he was using was purchased using the address proof of a teacher from Nilgiris district whom Shariq had befriended during his stay in Coimbatore. Though the officials interrogated the teacher, they believe that he had no knowledge about Shariq’s activities.

From Coimbatore, according to officials, the accused in the Mangaluru blast case travelled to Madurai and Nagercoil in Tamil Nadu. From Nagercoil in Kanyakumari district, Shariq travelled to Kerala’s Aluva.

Investigations are underway in these places as well.