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Terror groups of 1990s on revival?

Author: Deeptiman Tiwary
Publication: The Times of India
Date: October 6, 2013
URL: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-10-06/india/42763258_1_bangalore-blasts-1998-coimbatore-serial-blasts-tn-bjp

The Saturday's encounter at Puttur in Andhra Pradesh with alleged terrorists, who had targeted BJP leaders in Tamil Nadu, indicates that local terror organizations such as Al Ummah and Islamic Defence Force may be on a revival path. These outfits are believed to have died a quiet death in early 2000 following arrest and encounter of several of their leaders.

Police from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh had located four terrorists — wanted for the killing of TN BJP leader V Ramesh and an attempt on the life of LK Advani — in a house at Puttur in Andhra's Chittoor district. Following an encounter that began in the small hours on Saturday and ended in the afternoon, police arrested two, while two others escaped. A constable was injured in the encounter.

The two arrested ultras have been identified as Bilal Malik and Panna Ismail, who are alleged to have links with Al Ummah. Tamil Nadu Police arrested another terrorist, Fakhruddin, two days ago. Fakhruddin himself was once part of the Islamic Defence Force.

All three are also wanted in the April blasts at a BJP office in Malleswaram, Bangalore. "The make of the bombs in Bangalore blasts was similar to those used in 1998 Coimbatore blasts, which were triggered by Al Ummah. The three persons arrested earlier in the case belong to Al Ummah. The arrests are a clear sign of early 90s' fundamentalist groups reviving, perhaps, under new banners and leadership," said an officer from the security establishment.

He added, "There have been inputs of some old outfits regrouping in the recent past. Given that they have remained dormant for all these years, some external help from across the border in their revival cannot be ruled out."

In the early 90s all these groups had mushroomed and executed attacks in Tamil Nadu without any help from Pakistan. After the Babri Masjid demolition, Tamil Nadu went through a wave of radicalization when outfits such as Al Ummah, Islamic Defence Force and All India Jihad Committee (AIJC) sprung up, thanks to the backing of local Muslim traders and remittances from West Asia with the objective of 'protecting' Muslims.

These outfits did not indulge in mass killings and merely targeted Hindu fundamentalists, their establishments or state structures supporting them, using knives and locally made pistols or explosives until the 1998 Coimbatore serial blasts that claimed 58 lives. Even an Advani rally came under their attack along with BJP offices and establishments related to right-wing Hindu organizations.

However, following the Coimbatore blasts — masterminded by Al Ummah founder Syed Ahmed Basha, a timber merchant from the city — there was a massive crackdown on all fundamentalist organizations in the state. Basha was arrested along with over 150 operatives of the outfit, while Imam Ali of Islamic Defence Force was shot dead in an encounter with police in Bangalore in 2002.

"Since then none of these outfits have figured in any major terror activity or blasts. But after 2010, the outfits are on a path of revival," said the officer.
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