Chennai: All major towns and cities in Tamil Nadu, particularly Chennai and Coimbatore, have been brought under heavy security drills following a pointed intelligence alert late Thursday night that a group of six terrorists belonging to Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), including a Pakistani, has sneaked in through the sea from Sri Lanka and is heading for Coimbatore.
The intel alert said the terrorists could attempt to mingle with common people to avoid detection. “The men have disguised themselves as Hindus with tilak or vibudhi smeared on forehead”, said the alert. It is also likely that the group could use public transport, such as buses and trains, to reach their destinations.
The terrorist group includes five Sri Lankan Tamil Muslims and it’s likely to team up with some men already holed up in Coimbatore for pre-planned hits targeting crowded places such as shopping malls, prominent temples, railway stations, bus terminals and educational institutions, an informed source said.
Multiple police and security agencies have been placed under a state of high alert, not just in Tamil Nadu but also in the bordering areas of neighbouring states. Indian Coast Guard vessels have stepped up patrolling in the sea off Tamil Nadu and are in close coordination with the state coastal security police. The electronic monitoring sections in the police and other agencies have upped antennas for picking up suspect signals and conversations.
“There’s nothing to panic but we must be alert — the police as well as the people. We have taken adequate steps on this intel alert, including stepping up patrolling of the coastal areas because the sea is the route a terrorist coming in from Sri Lankan side will take”, TN Director General of Police L K Tripathy told DC.
“We are on high alert and taking all necessary steps to ensure that the people are safe and secure. Police have been deployed in adequate numbers to screen people at large places of public congregation, such as bus terminus, train station, shopping mall and movie hall. Our men and women in plainclothes are also out on watch”, said another senior officer.
Speaking for the government, senior minister D Jayakumar told reporters at Chennai that people need not panic but should remain alert. “Our police are taking all efforts to ensure our safety and security, so don't panic”, he said, appealing to people not to indulge in rumour mongering.
Acting swiftly after the Thursday night alert, the TN police set up vehicle-check points at vulnerable road junctions and other areas, apart from undertaking surprise raids - such as the commando group trooping into a prominent mall in Coimbatore around 7 pm for an extensive check of the place, the people and their bags. Coimbatore has remained a communally sensitive city since the serial bomb blasts that killed over 50 during BJP senior L K Advani's visit in 1998.
Extra vigil has been placed along the Kerala border in view of the long-held suspicion of interstate/international terror collaborations that involved trained men and women in Kerala, Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu (particularly Coimbatore), sources said, pointeing to the Easter blasts (April 21) in Colombo and the links between the perpetrators and extremist elements in Tamil Nadu.
India's National Investigation Agency (NIA) has been raiding places in Kerala and Tamil Nadu and arresting some locals in the past few months; the NIA had alerted Colombo about the Easter bombings but that warning had gone unattended due to the serious divisions among the Lankan rulers.
The present intel alert comes barely two months after the NIA nabbed three men allegedly inspired/recruited by IS terror outfit and preparing to carry out attacks in temples and churches in Coimbatore.
Chennai Police Commissioner AK Viswanathan also spoke on similar lines while explaining that additional teams have been deployed to keep guard at crowded places such as train stations and bus terminals.
Reports quoting top police sources said the name of the Pakistani national in the six-member terror group could be Iliyas Anwar and that the Sri Lankan Muslims could have had links with the April 21 Easter bombings in Colombo....