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Mystery group linked to blasts at court complexes and Al Qaeda offshoot sent 3 ‘warnings’

Security sources said the two-line letter contained a map of India, a picture of slain Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the words “Al Qaeda” at the bottom.

Written by Johnson T A | Bengaluru | Updated: August 9, 2016 8:04:22 am
Osama Bin Laden, Al qaeda India, India Al Qaeda, al qaeda, terrorism, terror attack warning, base movement, andhra pradesh court blast, kerala court blast, karnataka court blast,islamic state, osama bin laden, aqis, terror warning letters, indian express news, india news, osama bin laden news Letters had map of India, photo of Osama bin Laden, words ‘Al Qaeda’

A mysterious group using the name “Base Movement’’, which is the subject of an investigation into three blasts at court complexes in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka since April, has sent at least three mails to authorities since early last year, including one to the French consulate in Bengaluru, to announce its existence and warn of attacks.

The first communication was in the form of a letter sent by post to the office of the then Additional Chief Secretary to Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, in January 2015, stating that the group would be beginning its activities that year.

Security sources said the two-line letter contained a map of India, a picture of slain Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the words “Al Qaeda” at the bottom. The sender’s address was given as “Base Moment” (sic) from Kovai (Coimbatore) in Tamil Nadu.

Investigations by agencies in Karnataka revealed that the mail had originated in a town called Singanallur in Coimbatore and the pincode mentioned by the sender did not exist.

A second letter with the same features — a picture of bin Laden, the Al Qaeda sign-off, a map of India and the title “Base Movement” — was sent to the French consulate in Bengaluru in January 2016, ahead of the visit of French President Francois Hollande. Sources said the letter was written in incoherent English, and appeared to warn against Hollande’s visit.

“One admonish to the Indian government… As destructing and killing of my bloods… France president Francois Holland… To stop his advent… Otherwise return to france with his death…,” stated the letter received on January 14. Investigations led police to Velachery in Chennai before the trail went cold, sources said.

The third letter from the group was received at the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Commercial Taxes in Andhra’s Chittoor shortly after a blast occurred in the district court complex on April 7. The letter claimed that the blast had been carried out by the “Base Movement” — as retaliation for the killing of five Muslim youths linked to the proscribed SIMI in a police encounter in Warangal region on April 7, 2015.

The letter appeared to refer to the killing of Vikaruddin Ahmed, Suleman, Zakir, Azad and Asif, who were undergoing trial in terrorism cases, while they were being transported to a court hearing. Police had claimed that the men had tried to escape but the families of the dead youths had alleged that it was a “staged encounter”.

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The fact that the “Base Movement” claimed credit for the Chittoor court blast has led investigators to probe the role of this group in the blasts in the court complexes of Kollam (Kerala) on June 15, and Mysuru on August 1.

Sources said recent investigations by Bengaluru police into activities of the proscribed Tamil Nadu terror outfit Al Ummah, which also has operations in Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, have revealed that the group had aligned under the banner of “Base Movement” after swearing allegiance to Al Qaeda and joining hands with elements from outfits in south India.

The phrase “Base Movement’’ mentioned in the three letters is suspected to be a reference to Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), formed in August 2014 with the official name of “Jamaat Qaidat al-jihad fi’shibhi al-qarrat al-Hindiya’’ or “Organisation of the Base of Jihad in the Indian Subcontinent’’.

In a video posted online on September 3, 2014, Al Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri had announced the launch of AQIS and claimed to have gathered several groups in the subcontinent under its umbrella. Asim Umar, a Pakistan resident originally from Uttar Pradesh, was anointed as the leader of AQIS.

In December 2015, Delhi Police’s Special Cell arrested several key members of AQIS linked to Asim Umar, including its alleged India head Mohammed Asif, 41, a resident of Deepa Sarai in UP from where the AQIS chief hails.

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