A man who was carrying a crude bomb that exploded in an autorickshaw in Karnataka’s Mangaluru last Saturday was to target the famous Manjunath Temple in Kadri, according to “a letter claiming responsibility”, sources in the police today said. The letter, which is being verified, is on a letterhead of a group that calls itself ‘Islamic Resistance Council’, which the police said they hadn’t heard of so far.
Treating the blast as “an act of terror”, police have arrested the accused, Shareeq, 29, who was injured in the blast and remains in hospital.
The blast took place in the communally charged coastal town of Mangaluru, 370 km from state capital Bengaluru, months ahead of the state assembly elections.
The letter, which also carries a threat to senior police officer Alok Kumar, was received by the Intelligence Department, police said.
“It is not clear where the letter came from. The name of this organisation came to the fore for the first time. We are investigating if the letter is even authentic,” said a source.
Typed in English and printed with Shareeq’s photo, it says he “attempted to attack the Hindutva Temple in Kadri, a bastion of the Saffron terrorists in Mangalore”.
It seeks to justify the attempt: “We are only retaliating because an open war has been declared upon us, because mob lynching has become a norm, because oppressive laws and legislations are passed to suppress us and interfere in our religion, because our innocents are languishing in prisons, because public spaces today reverberate with calls of our genocide, and because as Muslims we have been commanded to wage jihad when faced with mischief and oppression.”
Police have said Shareeq, who allegedly had tried to make a bomb in September too, was carrying a low-intensity Improvised Explosive device or IED. A burnt pressure cooker fitted with batteries was found inside the auto. The driver suffered injuries too.
Having found a stolen Aadhaar card that Shareeq was allegedly carrying, police said it gave them “a fair idea that he was planning to target something, but we don’t know what”. He is from Karnataka and had travelled outside the state over the last few months.
“He had recently travelled to Coimbatore and parts of Tamil Nadu,” the state police chief has said.
Central agencies are working with the state police in the probe.
So far, the police have conducted searches at five places across Karnataka, including his home in Mysuru from where materials used to make bombs were seized.
“Shareeq was driven by ISIS (terror group) ideology and made a bomb at his home. On September 19, Shareeq along with two other accomplices carried out a trial blast in a forest on the banks of a river in Shivamogga,” a police officer said. Those two accomplices were arrested the next day but Shareeq managed to escape and took the Mysuru house on rent after showing the stolen Aadhaar card, and continued to make a bomb, police have alleged.
“We are not ruling out a connection with the recent Coimbatore blast (in Tamil Nadu),” said state police chief Praveen Sood. This connection with the case in the neighbouring state has been drawn by BJP ministers in Karnataka and party leaders in Tamil Nadu too. That blast near a temple last month killed Jameza Mubin, a 25-year-old man who’d been questioned by the central anti-terror agency over alleged ISIS links in 2019.
Shareeq was also booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA for graffiti on walls in Mangaluru, the police said.
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