THIRUVANANTHAPURAM/ CHENNAI: Officials from the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), Tamil Nadu police’s anti-extremist wing, ‘Q’ Branch, and the Kerala police are investigating the background of a four-member group from Tirunelveli, who were caught in Thiruvananthapuram while travelling in a car sporting a fake number plate. They are also probing another case, where a gang of four were apprehended while travelling in an SUV with a red beacon.
Top officials from Kerala police maintained that there was no terror angle in these cases, but the involvement of topflight intelligence agencies suggests that there may be more than what meets the eye.
The high-end car in which Jaffer Sadique Basha, Shajahan, M Raja and Rajitha, were travelling was flagged down at Palayam on July 26 after it emerged that the registration number of the vehicle was fake.
It was the number - KL 02 BU 9197 - which raised the suspicion, since the vehicle registrations in Kollam district (KL 02) has not yet reached the ‘BU’ series. When checked, police found the vehicle’s original number plate - TN 10 AE 0700 - in the car. The group was then taken into custody by the Cantonment police. According to sources in Tamil Nadu intelligence, the tip-off came from an auto driver in Kerala who noticed that Sadique’s high-end car sported a yet-to-be released series and alerted the local RTO and Cantonment police.
According to sources in Kerala, the quartet had landed in Thiruvananthapuram on a flight from Chennai. However, sources in Tamil Nadu police say that it was only Basha who arrived at the Thiruvananthapuram airport, from a Gulf country.
The group, according to officials, claimed that they had come for a land deal, and had used a fake registration number to avoid being duped by the locals. The information was soon passed to the intelligence wing of the Tamil Nadu police, which sent a team to join the investigations. According to sources, Jaffer Sadique Basha runs a manpower company at Sathiq Basha Nagar in Virugambakkam. Shajahan is said to be an aide, and Raja, a native of Thanjavur, his driver. Sources in Kerala police intelligence told Express that it was the involvement of some ‘latent’ elements in the case which had sparked the interest of the top agencies.
Mystery shrouds the arrest of the four-member group from Tamil Nadu in Thiruvananthapuram as the entire incident has been kept under the wraps for over a week. Source say that even the Chennai police is not yet aware of the matter. The incident is being investigated by multiple agencies including the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).
In a similar incident, the Kerala Police arrested five persons in Karamana, Thiruvananthapuram on July 14 for illegally using a red beacon on their vehicle and posing as a VIP’s personal security officers.
Those arrested - Murugan and Eljin Sam from Marthandam in Kanniyakumari, and Rajasekharan, Ravidas and Jaffer Ali from Puducherry - were quizzed by RAW sleuths 24 hours after the arrest.
All the five persons got bail as police found nothing suspicious in their conduct. They had given a statement saying that they had come to visit the Kovalam beach and used the beacon to avoid vehicle checks and traffic snarls. Curiously, one of them claimed they were part of the security detail of M S Bitta, leader of the All India Anti-Terrorist Front.
“We are treating the two cases with great seriousness. Efforts are on to check their antecedents. Prima facie, we came to the conclusion that there was little chance of them having any terror links. However, we are moving cautiously and weighing all the possibilities,” said a top intelligence official on condition of anonymity.