The spate of arrests and raids conducted by the sleuths of National Investigation Agency over the last few days in Tamil Nadu is indeed worrying from a terror perspective.
In the aftermath of the sinister Easter blasts in Sri Lanka that killed around 250 people, there were reports of an India-based active IS module that had worked in tandem with the Lanka-based terror outfit Thowheed Jamath. It was said the terror mastermind Zahran Hashim spent around two to three months in India (probably in December-January-February) and had been in touch with certain people in India after he returned to Sri Lanka.
Alongside, the NIA had carried out searches in Kerala in connection with the Lanka blast, and arrested a man, who is a follower of Zahran Hashim, on the charge of conspiring to carry out a similar suicide attack in Kerala. There was a strong suggestion that an IS module was in operation in India, especially with Tamil Nadu and Kerala as its base.
But the case did not make much headway and there was some wishy-washy denial to the Indian angle in the blasts.
But after the slew of raids and some arrests this month, investigating officers feel that the Indian IS module had indeed been active. But thanks to security interventions their nefarious plots could not be actualized.
In the last 10 days or so, the NIA has made much headway in the issue. First, the NIA managed to deport 14 persons from the UAE who were raising funds in a foreign country for an IS module here in India.
The arrested 14 people were from Melapalayam, Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam, Ramanathapuram and Chennai (all Tamil Nadu.)
After this breakthrough, the NIA, in a follow up action, conducted searches in Ramanathapuram district in places belonging to five of the arrested men, who had received training from the Ansarullah Movement in Yemen.
Though officials are tight-lipped about what was seized during the searches, sources indicate that officials did manage to get leads on a major hawala transaction blueprint. Sources further said that the IS module was typically operating sleeper cells that were ready to strike terror when they got the go-ahead. Luckily, the module has been dismantled before anything untoward happened, said one official.
NIA sources said that the case was cracked open because of the good ties with the UAE government. "Going forward, NIA would need to act in close understanding with many other foreign government agencies to negate the plans of the terrorists," the sources added.
Just as well, both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have passed the NIA (National Investigation Agency) Amendment Bill 2019.
The NIA is now armed with powers to probe offences such as human trafficking, circulation of fake currency, manufacture and sale of prohibited arms and cyber-terrorism. Most importantly, the NIA has now received permission to pursue crimes committed outside India.
While the Bill was passed unanimously in the Rajya Sabha, the Lok Sabha saw some interesting debate on the issue. But the Congress, the TMC and the DMK, even while opposing the Bill, voted for it. This makes it clear how important the amendment is, especially the part about NIA investigating crimes outside India.
Once the Bill becomes law (after the President's formal nod), the NIA will have more teeth and powers to take on criminals plotting against India from foreign shores.
NIA sources say that they had managed to thwart a major plan for IS consolidation. But further investigations, they say, would reveal how much the terrorists had infiltrated.
Last Updated Jul 22, 2019, 8:10 PM IST