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Rameshwaram cafe blast mastermind Abdul and bomber Mussavir used fake Hindu identities while on the run, were planning the next attack

Rameshwaram cafe blast mastermind Abdul and bomber Mussavir moved from Bengaluru to north Karnataka, Mumbai, Ratnagiri, Nellore, Chennai and finally West Bengal where they were arrested by NIA

After evading arrest by NIA for 42 days, the Rameshwaram cafe blast mastermind Abdul Matheen Tahaa and bomber Mussavir Hussain Shazib were nabbed from their hideout in West Bengal on Friday (12th April 2024). As per reports citing intelligence sources, the anti-terror agency tracked the pattern that the terrorist duo had been following for 42 days which ultimately led to their arrest from West Bengal’s Digha. 

Incidentally, in a clandestine move, the arrested terrorists had been using fake Hindu aliases to make logistical arrangements. Maintaining a low profile following the explosion, the Bengaluru cafe blast accused only stayed at low-cost hideouts like guesthouses and private lodges where verification is not strict. While on the run, they opted for road travel, paid in cash, used mobile phones for very short durations, and visited crowded tourist places to escape scrutiny. As per sources, parallelly they were also looking out for the “next target”. 

The intel sources said, “The interesting part is there was no desperation for money and the amount received was also not huge. They wanted things to settle down and were also on the lookout for the next target during these 42 days.” 

The officials said that Shazib had placed the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) at the cafe and Tahaa was the mastermind behind the planning and execution of the blast.

Repeat of earlier terror modules: The arrested terrorists used fake identities, predominantly of Hindus

Intelligence sources added, “Nothing was planned after the blast. They decided everything on the spot and kept moving to avoid being apprehended. Their longest stay was at a Digha lodge which was a possible mistake. They used all identities, including of Maharashtra domicile, Jharkhand, Karnataka, and Tripura. They ensured different fake IDs for all hotels and lodges, including surnames like Patel, Das, and Agarwal according to the demography of the place.” 

A day after their arrest, new CCTV footage surfaced on social media in which both the terrorists can be seen checking into a guest house which is reportedly located in Kolkata’s Ekbalpur. As per reports, Shazib and Tahaa checked into this guest house on 25th March and stayed there for three days. They had told the hotel staff that they were tourists, hailing from Karnataka and Maharashtra.

Tahaa, the mastermind of the Bengaluru blast, had used fake Hindu names as aliases at various locations for accommodation. It is pertinent to note that the agency had released “wanted posters” for the terrorist noting that “he has been using hindu identity documents, forging names such as Vignesh or other similar forged ID documents”. 

During the absconding period, they had stayed at a lodge in New Digha for the past four days and had switched several locations in Bengal.

The Bengaluru blast bomber, Shazib had used a fake Aadhaar card of one Yusha Shahnawaz Patel from Maharashtra’s Palghar at the two Kolkata hotels. Likewise, Tahaa used fake Hindu aliases Vignesh BD from Karnataka at one hotel and Anmol Kulkarni in another.

According to a Times of India report, at another hotel, they used the identities of Hindu men namely Sanjay Agarwal and Uday Das, hailing from Jharkhand and Tripura respectively.

Linked with other ISIS modules

Following their arrest, the special NIA court gave the agency a three-day transit remand of the arrested terrorists. While presenting them before the court, the agency stated that they seized some electronic gadgets and about 70 articles from the arrested duo. 

Both the terrorists are residents of Thirthahalli in Karnataka’s Shivamogga district and are linked to the 2022 Mangaluru pressure cooker blast. While Tahaa is an IT engineer, Shazib is an accused in the Islamic State’s (IS) Shivamogga-based module.

The intel sources said, “They are close friends of Mohammad Shariq, who was involved in the Mangaluru blast. They may have been planning to make one big IED and carry out a major blast. Their handler is foreign-based, who is hiding and funding them.” 

OpIndia had earlier reported that according to intelligence sources, Rameshwaram cafe blast accused used the cryptocurrency route to finance the operation. 

As per reports, Shazib, Tahaa, and another suspect — Shareef — all associated with ISIS modules, were also involved in the Shivamogga graffiti case as well as the Mangaluru cooker blast case reported in November 2023. Tahaa is said to be linked with the Al Hind module case in 2020 as well.

Earlier, the NIA had declared rewards of Rs 10 lakh on information leading to the arrest of each person on the run on 29th March. Various state police agencies including those of Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Telangana, West Bengal, and Karnataka assisted the NIA in apprehending the duo. 

As per India Today report, mastermind Tahaa is suspected to be one of the “high-value assets” of the Islamic State terrorist group in India. For NIA, he has been a wanted terrorist for the past five years. He maintained direct communication with an individual identified as a ‘colonel,’ whose name has emerged in numerous cases spanning South and Central India. 

NIA officials intend to interrogate Tahaa and Mussavir Hussain Shazib regarding the ‘colonel’s’ identity, the frequency of their meetings with him, methods of payment for terrorist activities, and their future intentions. 

According to sources speaking to India Today TV, following the cafe explosion, Tahaa devised an escape plan for himself from Tamil Nadu and one for Mussavir Hussain from Bengaluru.

Muzammil Shareef, who was arrested two weeks ago, was told by Tahaa to gather materials for the IED and assemble it before placing it in the cafe. Tahaa spent over a week scouting the cafe to find its weak spots. He also made plans for how the bomber could enter and exit the hotel and the city.

Nation-wide manhunt for 42 days and how NIA tracked down the terrorists in their hideout in West Bengal

Following the low-intensity IED blast in Bengaluru’s Rameshwaram cafe, the investigators found the first clue in the form of CCTV footage of Shazib leaving a bag that contained the IED device near the restaurant’s cash counter. On tracking his movements, the officers learned that he boarded a Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation(BMTC) bus that took him outside of the city limits and then again in a Karnataka state government bus in Tumakuru.

He was next spotted at a bus stand in Ballari where he was seen speaking to two other persons. 

An NIA officer said, “Two unreserved seats were occupied by individuals who alighted at the Ram mandir circle and central bus stand in Kalaburgi late on March 1.” 

According to NIA officials, another clue discovered by investigators was a cap left behind by Shazib. Their investigation revealed that it was purchased from a mall in Chennai. The NIA officers stated that this detail helped establish a connection between Shazib and Taha. Additionally, they found that the two had stayed in Tamil Nadu in January and February while preparing for the blast, as one officer added.

According to the Hindustan Times report, the officer said that the central agency was able to trace the movements of the two accused from Bengaluru to north Karnataka, to Mumbai, and then to Ratnagiri in Maharashtra.

The officer said, “It appears from there they went to Nellore in Andhra Pradesh and then to Chennai. After staying in Chennai for a few days, they went to Assam and finally reached West Bengal a few days ago.” 

Investigations also revealed that the two men rented a room at Hotel Paradise in Lenin Sarani in central Kolkata on 13th March. From there, they checked out the next day. They had used fake documents of men named Y Shahnawaz Patel and Anmol Kulkarni. 

On 26th March, the NIA carried out raids at 18 locations across three states. During these raids, they arrested Muzammil Shareef, who has since been charged with helping with logistics. 

17 days later on 12th April, at around 2 am, Shazib and Tahaa were arrested by the NIA officials in a joint operation with the West Bengal Police.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Paurush Gupta
Paurush Gupta
Proud Bhartiya, Hindu, Karma believer. Accidental Journalist who loves to read and write. Keen observer of National Politics and Geopolitics. Cinephile.

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