Two days after the mysterious killing of a Special Sub-Inspector in Kanyakumari district bordering Kerala, investigators have identified one of the two accused as Abdul Shamim (25), and described him as a “self-declared jihadi”. The motive for the killing, they suspect, was revenge for the arrests of three alleged terror suspects in Bengaluru this week.
Wilson (57) was shot dead around 9.30 pm Wednesday at a checkpost near Kaliyakkavilai in Tamil Nadu — his body had stab injuries, too. Police identified the accused from CCTV footage as Shamim and Thowfic (27), both from Kanyakumari.
Police said Shamim has been absconding after obtaining bail last month in the murder case of a Hindu Munnani leader in 2014. “He is unlikely to surrender. He is someone who would commit suicide before arrest, if he gets a chance,” an officer, who had interrogated him earlier, told The Indian Express.
Police initially suspected that the two had reached the checkpost in an SUV and shot the S-I fearing that he would identify Shamim. However, sources said, police now believe the shooting was planned to avenge the arrests Wednesday of Shamim’s suspected associates Mohamed Haneef Khan (29), Imran Khan (32) and Mohamed Zaid (24) in Bengaluru.
On Thursday, Tamil Nadu police started the procedure to obtain custody of the three who were allegedly “acting as sleeper cells to carry out terror acts” in Bengaluru.
Praveen Kumar Abinapu, DIG (Tirunelveli range), told The Indian Express: “We have identified both accused (in the killing of Wilson), we will arrest them soon. We have information that they have escaped to Kerala after the murder late on Wednesday. The murder was not committed during a vehicle check.”
Asked whether the motive was to send a message to Tamil Nadu Police for targeting their associates, Abinapu said: “We assume that is the reason behind this attack.”
On Friday, Wilson’s killing led to an unusual development with Tamil Nadu DGP J K Tripathy meeting his Kerala counterpart Loknath Behra in Thiruvananthapuram. Tripathy had also visited the family of Wilson, who left behind his wife and two college-going children. The family will receive a solatium of Rs 1 crore, according to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E K Palaniswami.
Sources told The Indian Express that CCTV footage shows Shamim and Thowfic running into a Jamaath office near the checkpost. Police said both escaped through the another door, which opens to a road connecting to Kerala.
According to police, the three arrested in Bengaluru were “assisting” Shamim and two others — S Syed Ali Nawas (25) and C Khaja Moideen (52), who were jailed in the killing of the Hindu Munnani leader, K P Suresh Kumar, near Chennai more than five years ago. “The three of them were absconding for over a month after they came out on bail. Both Shamim and Nawas are from Kanyakumari, and Moideen is from Cuddalore,” said an officer.
Wilson’s killing has also put the spotlight on a month-long hunt for Moideen, who is accused of radicalising the alleged shooters and named in cases of terrorism in Tamil Nadu. Described by police as the “Islamic State chief of Tamil Nadu”, Moideen was arrested Thursday by the Delhi Police Special Cell along with Nawas and another associate Abdul Samad (28).
Apart from the murder of Suresh Kumar, Moideen is an accused in the alleged recruitment of youths for the Islamic State after coming in contact with Haja Fakrudeen (42), a Tamil Nadu man who travelled to Syria from Singapore in 2014 to join the IS.
The NIA registered a case against Moideen, Fakrudeen and others in 2017 and filed a chargesheet on March 13, 2018, alleging that Moideen “knowingly and wilfully assisted Haja Fakrudeen in joining the ISIS/ISIL/Daish in Syria during January, 2014”.
After he jumped bail on December 12, 2019, Moideen is alleged to have held multiple meetings in the south Bengaluru area with potential recruits.
Technical evidence like SIM card purchase data revealed links with a bus driver Ejaz Pasha operating on the Mumbai route of a private company, a car driver Haneef Khan, an engineer Mohammed Zaid and a youth Imran Ahmed, sources said.
“The technical data showed that the persons linked to Moideen and the others travelled to AP, Odisha, Maharashtra and West Bengal but the trail seemed to go dead after a while,’’ sources said.
The four persons in Karnataka were among several who had been radicalised by Moideen in recent months after he came out on bail, sources said. During searches in Bengaluru, police claim to have found a packet with three country-made guns procured by the group.
Interrogation of suspects revealed that Moideen and his associates travelled in two groups by bus and a private Toyota Innova to Mumbai and West Bengal before they disappeared again — by allegedly slipping into Nepal.
“Shamim and Thowfic were also part of meetings held in Bengaluru that was attended by Moideen. Police were looking for them when the shooting in Kanyakumari occurred,’’ sources said.
Around three days before the shooting, Shamim and Thowfic were in Bengaluru where they got a brother of one of the men arrested by Tamil Nadu police to withdraw Rs 15,000 from an ATM, sources said.