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Coimbatore blast: Trio seen on CCTV were reported to police by mother of two of them

They assisted with logistics, say police; were helping Mubeen move house, says mother

One of the people arrested in the case. (PTI/File)

THE THREE youths, including two brothers, who were seen in the CCTV footage with Jamesha Mubeen — hours before he was killed when his car, loaded with two gas cylinders, exploded near a temple in Coimbatore on October 23 — had voluntarily appeared before a senior Intelligence officer of the Tamil Nadu Police a few hours after the blast.

And the person who informed the officer that they were at Mubeen’s house the previous night was the mother of the two brothers, Firoz Ismail (27) and Nawas (26). The third person, Muhammed Riyaz (27), is their neighbour.

The three are among the six arrested — all have been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) — in the case. While two other suspects, Muhammed Azharuddin and K Afsar Khan, are suspected to have had “direct roles” and knowledge about Mubeen’s “mission”, Coimbatore City Police Commissioner V Balakrishnan has said the trio’s role in the conspiracy has not been determined.

According to Balakrishnan, Mubeen “was on his way to a target, which is not known yet, and detonated himself outside the temple when he saw a police checkpost nearby”.

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Police have said the trio —seen in CCTV footage, lugging a large object, suspected to be a cylinder, out of Mubeen’s house hours before the blast — had assisted Mubeen with logistics. But Mymuna Begum, mother of Firoz and Nawas, said Mubeen had sought help in shifting his house, so she had sent her sons and Riyaz.

Speaking to The Indian Express at her home in G M Nagar in South Ukkadam, a congested neighbourhood of Coimbatore with a significant Muslim population, Begum, in her 50s, said after she heard of the blast, she had contacted a senior Intelligence officer and infomed him that the trio were at Mubeen’s house the previous night.

The Intelligence officer, who was earlier with the NIA and had examined Mubeen in 2019, confirmed that Begum and her sons had reached out to him. However, he refused to share further details.

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A single mother of five sons – her husband died two years back – Begum said Firoz had met Mubeen last year, when he had gone to a bookstore where he was working. She said when she met Mubeen last month, he told her that he had left the bookstore and was now selling old clothes.

Begum said she last spoke with Mubeen on October 22, the day before the blast, when she met him near her house. “He asked about Firoz and mentioned that he needed help to shift his house. I gave Firoz a call, as he (Mubeen) said he had a heart condition. Mubeen wanted him to come immediately. But we were going to meet someone, so I said I would send Firoz later. Firoz asked him for his address, and Mubeen said he would send his brother,” said Begum.

“Back home that night, around 9.45 pm, I told Firoz to go to Mubeen’s house. His younger brother, Nawas, was also home, so I suggested that he should take him too… In addition, I asked him to call Riyaz, who lives nearby,” said Begum.

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She said Afsar, who is Mubeen’s cousin, met the trio at G M Bakery in the neighbourhood, and guided them to Mubeen’s house. Later, Firoz reportedly told Begum that Mubeen had already packed some items. “They were told that the bulky packages contained gas cylinders and old clothes, and the destination was a housing unit in the city where he had relatives,” she said.

Begum said Firoz and Nawas returned home at 11.35-11.40 pm. The CCTV footage of four people, including Mubeen, outside his house was recorded at 11.25 pm.

The next morning, said Begum, Afsar came to their home at 9.30 am. “He told me he works as a car washer and came to check out a Ford Ikon that we had listed for sale on OLX. I called Firoz and he went to show him the car, but returned immediately saying Afsar had actually come to look for Mubeen… The previous night, Afsar appeared to have left the area after showing them Mubeen’s home,” said Begum.

“Around 10.30 am, a woman informed me about the car explosion. We saw the videos on YouTube; Firoz said the car and the body resembled Mubeen’s. I decided to call a police officer immediately,” Begum said.

Begum is familiar with senior police officers because Ukkadam is one of the areas in the state with maximum penetration of police intelligence, due to the 1998 Coimbatore blast and communal incidents. “I interact with people from all walks of life because I work in the real estate industry,” she said.

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She called the senior Intelligence officer who was earlier with the NIA. “I gave him a call around 11:30 am. He told us to come near Holy Family School… We left our car parked on the road. He came over and listened to us in our car. He wanted to go to Mubeen’s house. We reached Mubeen’s house around 1 pm… Firoz and the others entered the building, I remained outside. The house was locked. We all returned home then, as we were told to do so,” she said.

Begum said she briefed one more officer who works at the Police Recruits School (PRS). By evening, the PRS officer had called her sons. She said at 10.30 pm that night, everyone went to bed.

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The next morning, she said, her sons were called to the Ukkadam police station. “By evening, Firoz called me to inform me that a police team in plainclothes was coming home for a search. They returned without anything. They came again and shot videos at 8:30 pm. They said they wanted something as they wanted to show seizures here. They took my third son’s unused laptop and a Huawei tablet used by the younger one… After that, the NIA searched us on Thursday,” she said.

“I suggested that Firoz take his younger brother (Nawas) too. If Firoz knew Mubeen’s plan, why would he take his younger brother? Why didn’t they wear masks to avoid the CCTV if they knew Mubeen’s plan? I regret asking Firoz to call Riyaz for help… We help each other, that’s how we live here… whenever someone shifts home, I know the difficulties as we have lived in rented houses for almost two decades,” she said.

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While Firoz worked in Dubai for four years after his BCA (Bachelor of Computer Application), before returning to help in the family’s real estate business, Nawas did his MBA and was looking for a job in Coimbatore.

At Riyaz’s home in the same area, his parents said he didn’t know Mubeen. “He did his graduation in Computer Science, and was doing daily wage jobs like plumbing,” said his mother.

When contacted, the state Intelligence officer confirmed that Begum and her sons had reached out to him. Asked about the trio’s role, he said only Azhar and Afsar had active roles, while the rest were part of “logistical support”.

“But Firoz had contact with Rashid Ali (one of the six convicted in a 2016 Islamic State terror plot case in Kerala). There were reports that Firoz and others had visited Ali in Kerala jail; our counterparts in Kerala will share that information soon,” the officer said.

But Begum said she has evidence to prove that her sons were with her at Kovilpalayam (a neighbourhood in Coimbatore) in connection with some land deals on the date when Firoz is alleged to have visited the jail in Kerala.

“When the first search at our house happened, I was sitting and praying for an NIA probe. I know they will do it properly, better than the police,” she said.

First published on: 31-10-2022 at 04:02 IST
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