Festival eve shocker that raked up bloody memories of 1998 serial blasts in Coimbatore

By R Kirubakaran| Express News Service | Published: 31st December 2022 05:42 AM
File picture of NIA searching places linked to Coimbatore car blast suspects

COIMBATORE: 20 years after multiple explosions rattled Coimbatore in 1998, panic gripped the city again after a gas cylinder in a car exploded in October. The attack prompted discussions about possible chinks in the state’s security, police’s intelligence-gathering capacity and its ability to identify and neutralise radical elements. 

The serial blasts of 1998 had prompted TN police to form special branch SB-CID to gather intelligence about religious fundamentalists. The car blast now may lead to the creation of a separate wing against terrorism akin to ‘Thunderbolt’ of Kerala, OCTOPUS (Organization for Counter-Terrorism Operations) of Andhra Pradesh and Anti-Terrorism Squads (ATS) found in a few northern states, sources said.  

For some locals, the car explosion in front of the Sangameswarar Temple at Kottaimedu, a communally sensitive area, on October 23 on Deepavali eve, brought back memories of the 1998 blasts in the locality, in which several people died. 

Though TN police identified the deceased in the car blast case and his suspected coconspirators within a few hours, their identity was not revealed immediately. Information about the blast and the explosives that were seized during searches started emerging over the next few days, but the police were circumspect in making public disclosures. Police kept asserting that an accident had happened while transporting low-intensive explosives and six people were detained in the case. The police’s justification was that they wanted to prevent unnecessary panic. 

Soon, TN government suggested transferring the case to NIA saying that the incident could have links that go beyond TN’s boundary. After the NIA took over the probe, information started emerging that TN police had recovered 109 items, including several high-intensive explosive materials, from places linked the deceased and the blast was a possible suicide attack. Soon information emerged that the deceased, A Jamesha Mubeen (29), a resident of HMPR Street in Kottaimedu near Ukkadam, was an IS sympathiser and had held meetings with a few individuals in Coimbatore, The Nilgiris and Kerala as part of the plot. It was said that the car used by Mubeen could have exploded midway when he was on his way to execute a suicide attack. NIA has so far arrested 11 suspects under UAPA. 

Meanwhile, the probe agency is also looking into possible connections between the car blast and a cooker blast in an autorickshaw in Mangaluru in Karnataka on November 19. Inquiry showed the main suspect in the Mangaluru blast, Mohammed Shariq (24), who was injured in the incident, was in Coimbatore for nine days between late August and early September. Shariq stayed at a dormitory in Coimbatore where he met a youth, Surendran, and procured a SIM card using Surendran’s ID proof. Since the blasts in Coimbatore and Mangaluru occurred after his visit, it was suspected that he may have met Mubeen. 

Tags : Coimbatore Coimbatore blasts

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