An explosives supplier in the Mangalore region suspected to be involved in the illegal sale of ammonium nitrate to stone quarries for years and considered the possible explosives source for some Indian Mujahideen blasts in the country has been arrested for allegedly selling explosives illegally.
A licensed explosives supplier, Biju Thomas was picked up in Haryana two days ago and produced in an Udupi court Wednesday. Thomas was on the run for nearly three weeks after the Karkala police raided his stockyard and seized more than 14,000 kg of ammonium nitrate in connection with a case of illegal sales.
The raids were conducted shortly after IM operatives Zia-ur-Rehman alias Waqas and Tehseen Akhtar alias Monu, who were arrested by the Delhi Police Special Cell in late March, were brought to Mangalore on April 8 to identify their hideout at the Zephyr Heights apartment and their explosives supply source.
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Sources familiar with the investigations said Thomas had not been booked in a terror case since it was yet to be established if he was aware of the sale to IM operatives. Four cases of illegal sale had been registered against Thomas, sources said.
“This seems to have been the primary source of explosives supply to the Indian Mujahideen. The identities of the actual intermediaries who exploited the illegal sale of explosives to source ammonium nitrate for terrorist operations is yet to be ascertained,” sources said. “The place where IM operatives stored explosives is also yet to be identified.”
Thomas came under the scanner in 2010 as a possible IM explosives source following the Chinnaswamy Stadium blasts. But the police had not found a direct link between Thomas and the IM then.
“There are many stone quarries in the Udupi region. Thomas is a licensed supplier of explosives but he was selling explosives illegally. As a licence-holder he must personally carry out explosions at quarries that do not own licences to use explosives but he was just selling explosives to anybody who approached him,” one source alleged.
The Udupi region has been mentioned as the source of explosives on more than one occasion during investigations of terror cases involving IM. The cases include the May 2008 serial blasts in Jaipur which killed 80 people, the September 2008 Delhi serial blasts in which 30 people were killed and the February 2013 twin blasts in Hyderabad which killed 16 people.
The Zephyr Heights apartment was allegedly used as a hideout and was also a sort of a bomb lab for IM.