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Tamil Nadu govt recommends NIA probe into Coimbatore blast as possible terror angle emerges

Five held so far in connection with LPG blast that left 1 dead. Decision to hand over probe taken at high-level meet chaired by CM Stalin, day after cops slapped UAPA on the suspects.

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Chennai: Three days after the Coimbatore car blast killed a 29-year-old man, the Tamil Nadu government on Wednesday recommended the investigation be transferred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

Jameesha Mubin was killed when a LPG cylinder in his car exploded in front of Kottai Eswaran temple in Ukkadam area on Sunday morning.

The circumstances leading to the death of Mubin, who was questioned by the NIA in 2019 for his ties to a radical network linked with the Easter Sunday blasts in Sri Lanka, has led to investigators suspecting a possible angle of terror plot.

Mubin was believed to be in touch with the network related to Zahran Hashim, the mastermind of the Easter bombings.

The decision to transfer the investigation from police to the NIA was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. K. Stalin came a day after the Coimbatore Police invoked certain provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against the five suspects arrested for their links with Mubin.

Chief Secretary V. Irai Anbu, Home Secretary K. Phanindra Reddy, Director General of Police C. Sylendra Babu and ADGP (Intelligence) Davidson Devasirvatham attended the meeting.

The blast site happens to be in the communally sensitive area of Ukkadam. The police suspect that the men had planned a larger act of sabotage and that the explosives went off accidentally.

“Keeping in mind the possible national and international ramifications, the meeting decided to recommend to the Union Government to direct the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to take over the investigation in the case,” an official statement said.

Five people — Mohammad Asarudheen (25), Mohammad Riyaz (27), Mohammad Thalka (25), Mohammad Navaz Ismail (27) and Feroz Ismail (27) — have been arrested, so far. The arrested men had helped Mubin transport explosives and LPG cylinders in his car, the police said.

Reports have noted that the police accessed surveillance camera footage that showed Mubin and few others taking out heavy objects wrapped in a white sack from his residence at MPR Street in Kottaimedu around 11.30 pm on Saturday.

There were also reports that Mubin had a list of places of potential attacks including Coimbatore Collectorate, office of the Police Commissioner, Coimbatore railway station, Victoria Town Hall and Race Course.

In the past three days, police have recovered nearly 75 kg of explosive materials from the residences of Mubin and others like black powder, potassium nitrate, aluminium powder, charcoal, and sulphur.

While the First Information Report (FIR) was initially registered under Section 174 (suspicious death) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and Section 3(a) of the Explosive Substance Act, Coimbatore Police Commissioner V. Balakrishnan said Tuesday that it was altered to include relevant sections of the anti-terror law UAPA.

Sections 120B (punishment for criminal conspiracy) and 153A (promoting enmity between different groups) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) have also been added to the case.

At the meeting, the government decided to set up three new police stations in Coimbatore’s Karumbu Kadai, Koundampalayam, and Sundarapuram areas for greater surveillance. Other important decisions include the formation of a special force to prevent similar incidents and to set up modern surveillance cameras in densely populated areas of major cities like Coimbatore and Chennai.

“The meeting also decided to appoint more officers to the intelligence department and to provide security to people who give inputs about people who indulge in anti-social activities,” the statement added.

On Tuesday, the Coimbatore Commissioner had said that a detailed forensic analysis of the vehicle and materials found in it would be done.

Coimbatore was already on high alert after the Centre had banned the Popular Front of India (PFI) in September for five years for allegedly having links with terror groups.

(Edited by Tony Rai)

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