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Kerala cops in a spot over CB revelation of SIMI camps on Kerala- TN border

Kerala cops in a spot over CB revelation of SIMI camps on Kerala- TN border

Author: Pioneer News Service
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: August 23, 2008

The revelation by the Crime Branch of the Gujarat Police on Saturday that banned Islamist outfit SIMI had held a full-fledged training camp at the jungles near Vagamon in the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border in Idukki district has put the Kerala Police in a spot though Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan tried to put up a brave face by saying the police had been in the know of this.

Balakrishnan said in Alappuzha on Saturday that Kerala Police was aware of the information revealed by the the Director General of Police, Gujarat with regard to the SIMI camp in the hill report of Vagamon. He said the police had known about the camps SIMI had held in Vagamon and Binanipuram off Kochi. The police had also started investigation with cases registered in this regard in Binanipuram and Mundakkayam, he said. He added that the police were trying to avoid delays in these investigations.

Balskrishnan said that complaints had come up about harassment of a particular minority community just when the police were about to nail some people. Some human rights organisations also had come out against the investigations, he said. He asked the rights groups to take a new position in the context of the new revelations by the Gujarat Police.

The Home Minister also said that some Malayalees going outside the State for several reasons had links with certain extremist outfits. But they were not working inside the State, he claimed.

However, top police officials remained tight-lipped about the revelation by the Gujarat Police on the pretext that they could not reveal anything for security reasons. Despite the confidence aired by the Home Minister, several of the officials sounded unsure about the situation. An official said that such things were not unknown.

"Even Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan had in his Independence Day speech said that extremists were operating in Kerala "overtly and covertly". We know of such things and we have been acting against them in our way," a top official protested.

The DGP, Gujarat, said that SIMI operatives numbering between 40 and 50 had taken part in the two camps held at the jungles off Vagamon on December 8, 2007 and January 2008. He said that the operatives had undergone commando training here and bomb-making techniques from a foreign national.

He said that the SIMI activists had undergone training in jungle warfare, survival games to prepare for extreme conditions, rope training, etc. However, he did not go into the details due to security risks.

Certain retired top cops in the State suspected that political decisions were pulling the law-enforcers away from conducting searches for extremist elements. They said extremist incursions into Kerala, especially through the low-surveillance border areas in the bushy Idukki hills, were not unknown. They also said that political influences had several times held back sleuths from carrying out checks in the urban camps of these elements.

"Vagamon, with virtually no police surveillance, is an appropriate place for such training operations. This place with its meadow-like expanses of terrain is almost cut off from the world and keeping a watch for hostile elements is easy for those who undergo training here due to the peculiarity of the terrain," said a former police official who had worked in Idukki district earlier.

"Even gun-training can be conducted here without being noticed by the world outside due to two factors. One is the remoteness of the area and the second is the ever-blowing strong winds which would drown any sounds," he said. Vagamon is some 150 km southeast of Kochi city.

The Pioneer had earlier reported about presence of suspicious domestic and international elements in the border areas in Idukki district. Intelligence agencies had months back come to know about activities of hostile persons and groups in the area, but sources said that the top-brass of the State police had either remained complacent or were held back from acting by political influences.

Altaf Ahmed Khan, a Kashmiri youth and former operative of terror outfit Hizbul Mujahiddin, who was working at a carpet shop in Kumili in Idukki, had been arrested in January last. His associate Jehangir also had been taken into custody but was let off after interrogation as there had been no track records of his involvement in subversive activities.

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