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Coimbatore Terror Trail: Jamesha Mubin A Copycat IS Jihadi or Operative for Foreign Handler?

By: Rohini Swamy & Arunima

Edited By: Manjiri Joshi

News18.com

Last Updated: November 04, 2022, 18:21 IST

Bangalore Rural, India

Six people have been arrested in the Coimbatore blast case, which has now been handed over to the NIA. (PTI File)

Six people have been arrested in the Coimbatore blast case, which has now been handed over to the NIA. (PTI File)

Jamesha Mubin, the main suspect in the Coimbatore cylinder blast case, is seen as a “copycat Islamic State (IS) jihadi”, who wanted to avenge the atrocities against his community

Investigations into the Coimbatore blast have once again brought back the focus on self-trained jihadis and lone wolves operating in the country.

Jamesha Mubin, the main suspect in the Coimbatore cylinder blast case, is seen as a “copycat Islamic State (IS) jihadi”, who wanted to avenge the atrocities against his community.

News18 has learned that he was a self-trained jihadi who used the internet and available reading material to radicalise himself. The investigating agencies found links to websites and videos on how to make bombs on the mobile phones that were seized. He even visited websites on weapon training and procurement. His diary allegedly had several jottings on Islam, “growing Islamophobia” in India, details on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), lynching cases, involving Muslims, halal, hijab, and religious conversion rows in neighbouring states, etc.

Mubin, along with a few of his cousins, whom he radicalised over the years, allegedly created a terror module and had been plotting and planning the attack since 2019. As of now, the police have not found any direct links with any foreign handler.

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FUNDING QUESTIONS

“In south India, terror attacks have been of low intensity and localised, except for the IISC shootout where a direct link to a Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) operative working with a local unit was established. It is important to trace Mubin’s funding and whether he was in touch with foreign handlers. The role of terror groups operating out of Maldives, Sri Lanka and Pakistan cannot be ruled out,” Gopal Hosur, former IG intelligence, Karnataka told News18.

Mubin and his cousins closely followed Zahran Hashim, the mastermind of the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka, and planned the attack on the Kotta Eswaran temple in Ukkadam, said a police source.

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Mubin had bought a Maruti 800, used in the explosion in which he got killed, from Mohammed Talha, the nephew of S A Basha, who is the founder and leader of the banned Islamist terror organisation Al-Umma. The car cost the alleged bomber Rs 25,000 and had been purchased by eight people before Mubin. However, police sources say Talha gave away the car for free as it was to “save the honour of Islam”.

Three of Mubin’s cousins who have been arrested for links to the Coimbatore cylinder blast — Firoz Ismail, Nawaz Ismail and Muhammed Riyaz — helped him load the car with aluminum cylinders containing explosive material such as potassium nitrate, sulphur and aluminum powder attached to a fuse and the gas cylinder to ignite and intensify the explosion.

“When Mubin was heading towards the temple, he hit a speed-breaker. This caused the gas cylinder to leak and ignite the explosives causing the self-assembled bomb to explode even before he could reach the temple. A major attack and loss of lives were averted by mere luck,” said a source close to the investigation to News18.

His damaged phone showed he would often chat on an encrypted platform, IMO. While one phone was completely damaged in the blast, his second phone was recovered from his residence. Forensic tests and data extraction process have been initiated to check if an external handler was involved. Under the scanner are eight people who were allegedly part of the Mubin module. Sources said the group first met at the Ryan mosque in Coimbatore in 2018.

Mohammed Azharuddin, now in a Kerala jail for his involvement with IS networks, allegedly indoctrinated the group. Mubin was later interrogated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), too, but let off for lack of evidence. Probe officials are looking at the module afresh in light of the latest blast. “All were questioned and put through the deradicalisation programme. Latest evidence suggests the group may still be actively following the IS ideology," a police officer said.

LONE-R WOLF

According to the sources News18 has been speaking to, Mubin, although seen as a loner, was active in groups that were linked to the Islamic State (IS) and constantly listened to speeches and watched videos of terror outfits.

“He would sit in prayer at the mosque long after the namaz was over. He would be found sitting alone in a corner and would often wait for others to finish their namaz and then enter the mosque to pray alone. He would not mingle with the jamaat, but would sometimes be accompanied by his cousins,” local jamaat leaders told one of the investigating officers.

‘YOUTH MUST DO JIHAD’

Two children’s slates, one with a drawing that resembled the IS flag and the other with a handwritten note that read — ‘Allahuvin illathin meedhu kai vaithaal veraruppom (We will uproot all those who dare to touch the house of Allah)’ were found in his possession. Three pieces of paper – one with a flow chart drawing which said that “children and elders are weak, it is the youth who are strong and must carry out jihad to save their brothers" — was found at the alleged bomber’s residence, along with books and printouts from radical websites. The second part of the flow chart showed how humans are classified as Muslims and Kafirs (infidels), while the third described the Hadith.

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The six accused arrested in the case — Muhammad Talha, Muhammad Azharudheen, Muhammad Riyas, Firoz Ismail, Muhammad Nawaz Ismail and Afsar Khan — are in their 20s.

A total of 109 articles were recovered from Mubin’s house, including nearly 75 kg of explosive material, which indicated the plan to execute the attack on a big scale.

COLLECTED SULPHUR OVER 1 YEAR

The NIA, in its first information report (FIR) on Mubin, listed articles such as potassium nitrate, nitroglycerin, red phosphorus, pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) powder, aluminum powder black powder, matchbox, 2-m-long cracker fuse, portable oxygen cylinder, sulphur powder, glass marbles, a gas regulator, several sets of batteries, loose wires, iron nails, switch, insulation and packaging tapes and gloves, among others.

“PETN powder is not easily available. Mubin acquired small quantities of the explosive over a long period to collect enough to conduct the attack. He, however, procured various elements to build the bomb using online shopping websites. We have asked those websites to share the information on the orders placed by him,” said the source.

According to a senior Coimbatore police official, online shopping records show that small quantities of sulphur were bought over one year and the same material was found at his residence during the raids.

SUSPECT NUMBER 89

After the ban on the Popular Front of India (PFI), investigating agencies across the country have been put on alert by the Centre to keep a close watch on any possible terror threat. A list of nearly 900 suspects was made by the Tamil Nadu State Police, and 150 of them were to be on the ‘close watch list’. Mubin was among the 150.

“It is important to understand whether Mubin was acting on his own or being utilised by other (radical organisations) as he already had that extreme bent of mind. There is a lot of radicalisation taking place and following it up and tracking the suspect is substantial work. The agencies are doing their best. However, the task has been cut out for the NIA,” said another state intelligence official.

ALSO READ | NIA Takes over Probe in Coimbatore Car Blast Case After ‘Possible International Links’ Surface

More than 130 locations have been searched over the past few days to look for other members of this module.

Political leaders such as Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state president K Annamalai called the incident “an intelligence failure” and further alleged that despite alerts, the state police failed to prevent the attack. Police sources say that two alerts were circulated, one on July 19, in the wake of the death of a Class 12 girl at a school in Kallakurichi on July 17, which led to riots. A list of 96 suspects was simulated at the time and Mubin was suspect number 89. When the police went hunting for Mubin at the residence mentioned in the alert, they could not find him there as he had moved out.

INSISTED ON MARRYING A WOMAN WITH DISABILITY

In Coimbatore’s Kottaimedu, Mubin lived with his wife Nasarat and their two children. He had moved into the rented house a month before the blast. They had shifted from the Al Ameen colony in Ukkadam after having stayed there for two years, which was also close to the residence of his cousin, who would visit him regularly, especially when his wife was away.

Mubin worked in a bookstore which was owned by Hani Idayatullah who was arrested by the NIA in connection with the 2019 SL Easter bombings.

Just weeks before the attack on Independence Day, Mubin dropped his children and wife who are speech and hearing impaired at his in-law’s place in Ukkadam. He even picked up a fight with his homeowner, who had hoisted the national flag.

The police say that when Mubin was looking for marriage, he specifically wanted a bride who had a disability. At first, it was seen as a noble move by his family, but since the blast, it is being perceived as a well-planned move to ensure she did not reveal his movements to anybody, including the police.

“His wife, with the help of an interpreter, told us that she often asked him about the cartons stored in the house and they would often get into an argument over it. He would say it had books and silence her,” a senior police official revealed.

He was careful about his movement and did not visit a professional doctor, despite having health issues. He used to visit Kerala for treatment through traditional forms of medication such as Unani.

It is also said that Mubin had accompanied Mohammed Azharuddin to Kochi jail to meet two men who were housed after being arrested in another terror case. Their links are also being investigated.

LOANS FROM NEIGHBOURS

Mubin took small loans from neighbours and well-wishers, claiming he couldn’t pay for his medical expenses and used the money to procure bomb material, investigators have learnt.

Neighbours and people known to Mubin have told probe officers that loans as little as Rs 500 to Rs 1,000 were taken. “One neighbour told the probe team that he gave a loan of Rs 1,000 for Mubin’s eye treatment, another said he would often give a loan taking pity on the financial condition of the 29-year-old. But no records have been found yet to support the medical expense theory,” a senior officer told News18.

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first published:November 04, 2022, 18:07 IST
last updated:November 04, 2022, 18:21 IST
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