Thiruvananthapuram : Riyas Aboobacker, who was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) from Palakkad on Monday, was planning suicide attacks at international tourist destinations in Kerala.
The 29-year-old — who has been following speeches and videos of Sri Lankan Easter bombing mastermind Zahran Hashim — is learnt to have confessed to the NIA that he was asked by IS operatives, who had earlier gone from Kerala, to plan suicide attacks at any international tourist spot in the state.
But that did not work out as he did not get support from his companions. Hence, Riyas was planning terror strikes by himself, it is learnt.
The revelation has come as a shock to the people of Muthalamada, a small village, about 30 kilometres from Palakkad.
Riyas’ family, residing in the village for over four years, is said to be in good terms with the local people. But Riyas was hardly seen at home. Many had the impression that he was a hardcore Islamic believer, but no one suspected he would have links with international terrorist outfits.
Riyas’ father is running a small textile shop at Kambrathuchalla at Muthalamada, which is close to Chulliyar dam. Riyas was the youngest son. His elder brother is said to be working as a salesman in a jewellery shop in Tamil Nadu.
A neighbour of Aboobacker, who did not want to be identified, told DH that all members of the family, except Riyas, maintained a cordial relationship with them and that they used to attend prayers at the nearby mosque. Riyas was not present at home most of the time and was said to be involved in the sale of attar and Islamic prayer caps. “Despite being a neighbour, I had hardly seen him over these years,” he said.
K Sateesh, another resident of Muthalamada and a local body representative, said the area had vast forest patches, which could be good hideouts for such operations. “We knew that many youths in the locality were hardcore Islamic believers, but did not suspect any terrorist activities so far,” he said.
The local police and intelligence officials were totally in the dark about the terrorist activities being planned in the locality. “The area has some forest patches. But political activists were quite active that we thought we would get to know about any illegal activity,” said a senior police officer of Palakkad.
Local MLA K Babu said there were earlier reports that some persons associated with the 1998 Coimbatore blasts had links with Palakkad. “But we never suspected any youth in the locality of having terrorist links,” he said.
Over these years, the NIA had come across many youths with IS links in Kerala, especially in the northern parts of the state. A group of over 20, including couples and their children, from Kerala had crossed borders to join IS camps in 2016. In 2017, the NIA registered cases against five people from Valapattanam in Kannur district for NIA links.
The probe into these cases had revealed the links of Riyas with IS. He was said to be in constant touch with many of them.
In the last two years, around 10 Kerala natives who joined IS were reported to be killed.
Source : deccanherald