Eleven years after serial explosions ripped through Coimbatore city, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) is still clueless about four absconding Al Umma activists, who allegedly procured explosives. Over 50 persons were killed on February 14, 1998 when Al Umma activists triggered bombs in several crowded places across Coimbatore on the eve of the Lok Sabha elections. After the rapid-fire explosions that numbed this textile city, the SIT arrested 166 Muslim fundamentalists including Al Umma leader S A Basha. But five Al Umma activists, who allegedly masterminded the blasts, procured and manufactured explosives and planted bombs, escaped.
And 11 years on, while one of them, S K Mohideen, who was charged with conspiracy and planting of bombs, was caught last year in Melapalaym in Tirunelveli district, four other accused elude the SIT sleuths. “We have set up special squads to hunt them down. But we have not obtained any specific clues yet,” said the SIT SP, P Sukumar. One of them, NP Nuhu, is said to have fled the country with fake passport and the Tamil Nadu police have issued a “red corner alert” for him. Twenty-nine-year-old Nuhu was accused of giving shelter to the key accused, Oom Babu, who was convicted on charges of planting bombs and is currently lodged in jail here.
The SIT teams in Kerala, Hyderabad and Tirunelveli are continuing their hunt for the other three accused: Mujibir Rehman, the alleged mastermind, Sathik alias Tailor Raja, the alleged bomb maker and Kunji Mohammed, who was charged with procuring explosives from Kerala. Intelligence officials say the absconding persons may have approached other fundamentalist outfits for a safe shelter. They also do not rule out their links to one Hyder Ali, who is wanted in connection with several bomb explosion cases, including two in Coimbatore. With the SIT getting nowhere near the four accused, the special court in Coimbatore delivered its judgement in the bomb blasts case last year.
The court acquitted eight persons, including a Kerala-based political leader, Abdul Nassar Mahdani, and ordered the release of 102 accused, who had served their jail term. As many as 57 convicted Al Umma activists are now lodged in the high- security prison here. Meanwhile, police say they are keeping a close watch on the released Al Umma prisoners. At least five of them are back in the police net in connection with explosive making, drug peddling, rice smuggling and assault. While Sait Fakruddin was arrested last August for smuggling three bags of rice, Kichhan Buhari was held under the Explosives Act in Tirunelveli last year. Last month, police arrested SIMI activist Shah Jahan and launched a hunt for a released Al Umma prisoner, Abbas, for allegedly transporting drugs.