On November 19, 24-year-old Mohammad Shareeq was identified as the accused for the autorickshaw blast in Mangaluru that the police say was an 'act of terror'. At around 4:40 PM on that day, a bag he was carrying exploded near Nagori area of the city, leaving the auto rickshaw driver and Shareeq injured grievously.
The Karnataka police say that Shareeq was carrying a bomb cooker from Mysuru to Mangaluru, probably in a bus, and later boarded the autorickshaw on Saturday evening. "The travel would have caused friction, which would have heated up the explosive material, probably triggering the explosion," the police told reporters on Monday.
The driver of the autorickshaw who has been identified as Phusatam Pujari and Shareeq had suffered over 40 per cent burn injuries in the blast. They are under treatment at the city hospital.
Soon after the blast, the police said that Shareeq was "wanted in three cases" in Mangaluru and was absconding for many months.
Who Is Shareeq And Why Was He On The 'Wanted' List?
The Karnataka police said that Shareeq, a wanted terror accused, is a resident of Thirthahalli in the Malnad region of Karnataka.
A senior police officer told BOOM that Shareeq was first booked under two cases in Mangaluru in 2020.
He was accused of painting "pro-terror graffiti" in the city in November 2020. "Do not force us to invite Lashkar-e-Taiba and Taliban to deal with Sanghis and Manuvadis. Lashkar Zindabad" and "Gustakh E Rasool Ki Ek Hi Saza Sar Tan Se Jude" were the two graffitis Shareeq had allegedly painted.
The officer said that they arrested Shareeq and his engineering graduate friend- Maaz Muneer Ahmed then. They were booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The duo were released on bail after eight months.
Shareeq started living a normal life, the police told BOOM. He was helping his father at their cloth shop in Thrithalli till April 2022. Then from April onwards, the officer said, Shareeq along with his two associates – Maaz Muneer, 22, and Syed Yasin, 21 were making preparations to conduct a series of blasts in Manguluru.
On Independence Day, a fight had broken out between two groups in Shivamogga over putting up a photo of V.D. Savarkar in the area. Amid the scuffle, one person namely Prem Singh was allegedly stabbed by Jabihullah. The police arrested the accused and during the interrogation, they found that he was in contact with Shareeq. "We found links of videos about [how to make a bomb and material related to ISIS groups]," the officer told BOOM.
The Shivamogga Rural police found that the group was involved in terror activities and had links to the Islamic State. The police arrested Muneer and Yasin and recovered explosive materials from the duo. They said the arrested duo were radicalised by Shareeq who sent links and PDFs on how to make a bomb. Shareeq was reported 'absconding' in the case.
After Yasin, Muneer and Jabihullah's arrest in September, the police and National Investigation Agency (NIA) found out that Shareeq was an associate of a key member of an Islamic State offshoot- Al Hind module.
By the time the security agencies learned these details about Shareeq from his arrested associates, he had fled. Until November 19 when the autorickshaw blast took place and police found Shareeq.
According to ADGP of Karnataka police, Alok Kumar, Shareeq in the interim was in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and most recently in Mysuru.
They Learned How To Make Bombs- On Telegram
On September 19, when Muneer and Yasin were arrested by police, Shareeq managed to flee. The Shivamogga Superintendent of Police told the media that the youth had executed a trial blast on the bank of Tunga river in Shivamogga.
They had manufactured a bomb using locally available material that they learned to make from the study material shared by ISIS on their channel – Al Hayat – on Telegram.
"The accused profess the ideology of Islamic State. They were of the view that India got independence merely from the British. But the real independence would be achieved only after establishing a caliphate and enforcing Sharia law," the officer said.
However, the officer said that during their initial investigation it was found that Muneer, Yasin and Shareeq were members of the channel, which was only for one-way communication. "So far, there is no information on a direct link with the banned organisation," the officer had said in September during a press briefing.
Mangaluru Blast And AI Hind
The senior officer told BOOM that after the Mangluru blast, the police went to the spot and picked up remnants with the help of Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) team. "We found sulphur and phosphorus, which worked as detonators from the spot and learnt that they were testing their trail of making bombs," he said.
According to the officer, Shareeq is said to be associated with Mateen Ahmed Taha, who is also a resident of Shivamogga and allegedly a member and main handler of Al-Hind module (a radical group for security agencies) active in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Investigating agencies have learnt that the Banguluru-based Al Hind module was allegedly put together by Mehboob Pasha, a resident of Gurappanapalya, and Khaja Moideen, a resident of Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu.
In 2020, the module was busted by the NIA and the agency filed multiple charge sheets, alleging the group wanted to establish an IS province inside the jungles of South India. Security agencies have declared Taha, a top brain behind the group, who is yet to be arrested.
Where Was Shareeq All This While?
On Monday, the ADGP of Karnataka, Kumar in a press conference said that since August 15 Shareeq was on the run. "On August 20, he disappeared from Shivamogga and had gone to Koyambatoo and stayed there for 2-3 days. He changed some more locations and on September 20, he rented a room at Loyak Nayak Nagar in Mysore city," he said.
The officer said that Shareeq had used a fake Aadhar Card of a government officer to get the accommodation and his owner has no clue about his acts. "We went to the spot and after searches, we found an Aadhar card of a person named Preem Raj Hutei. We verified it with the Hubli Dharwad Police who told us that Preem Raj Hutkei works at Tumkur as Gangman at the railway department," he said.
Kumar said he spoke to Hutkei and confirmed that he is in no way connected to any of the terror acts and is merely a government servant.
The commissioner of police with the help of his team searched Shareeq's rented room at Loyak Nayak Nagar and found explosive materials – Sulphur, phosphorus, nuts and bolts and circuits. "All sorts of things we found there have been purchased from different sources – online and offline. We are working on the evidence," the police said.
"As per the information shared by Shareeq with us, Taha is the main handler. He was in touch with 2-3 more people who the police are trying to nab. Police have formed five teams to investigate the case," Kumar said.