Shock grips Kochi suburbs after NIA arrests three Al Qaeda suspects

One of the three arrested men had been living in Perumbavoor for the past seven years.
Muppathadam Road in Pathalam
Muppathadam Road in Pathalam
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The Muppathadam Road near Pathalam, leading to the Edayar industrial sector, was eerily silent on Sunday. Almost all the shops in the spot remained shut, the area resembling a hartal, and wary eyes met those entering the few shops that remained open. It was from this region, from a small house painted yellow, that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested a man, who had settled down there claiming to be from West Bengal, but accused to be part of the terror outfit Al Qaeda.

The man, Murshid Hassan, who had been working at a shop in the region for the past two and half months, is accused to be the leader of the three-member Al Qaeda module which allegedly aimed to carry out terror strikes in the country. Two others, Iyakub Biswas and Mosaraf Hossen, were arrested from Perumbavoor in Ernakulam district.

The NIA has said that all the three arrested men had been posing as migrant labourers and had sheltered in two of spots in Ernakulam with a dense population of migrant workers — Perumbavoor and Eloor. Their arrest has come as a shock for the people in the region. While two of them have been working here since the past few months, Mosaraf Hossen, had been living in Ernakulam for the past seven years.

“It was shocking! I had known the man for the past seven years that he has been working here. He lives with his wife and children. The elder child is studying in class four and the younger child is in kindergarten. Who can imagine such a family man to have terror links,” says bewildered Abubacker, a native of Perumbavoor, at whose textile shop Mosaraf Hossen had been working as a salesman.

It was hours after Mosaraf was taken into NIA custody, that Abubacker came to know such an incident had happened. “He was very punctual to work here. We don’t know many personal details about him, apart from the fact that he said he hailed from Murshidabad in West Bengal. When he started working here, he had submitted a copy of his voter identity card,” Abubacker recollects.

Meanwhile, Iyakub Biswas, who also claimed to be a resident of Murshidabad in West Bengal, had only started working in Perumbavoor three months ago, at an eatery. 

“He came three months ago searching for a job. Since most of my workers had returned to their hometown due to the COVID-19 lockdown, I gave him a job. I am not sure about any other details, nor have I observed anything suspicious. He had been living in the house which I rented out for my workers. There are Malayali families near this house where he was living. All of them are in shock now, he used to talk very cordially with everyone,” says Haris, owner of the eatery where Iyakub worked.

Residents in Eloor also have very little information about Murshid Hassan, who had been working there for the past two-and-half-months. “A section of migrant workers had gone back during the lockdown. It is learnt that he came here asking for work during the lockdown period,” says Jasmin, the councillor of Pathalam in the Eloor municipality.

Following the arrest of the three men who lived around spots with a migrant worker population, the Ernakulam rural police on Sunday held checks at the labour camps in Perumbavoor and other similar places.

According to reports, the NIA has said that the three arrested accused will be shifted to Delhi on Sunday for further investigation. The central agency has also reportedly zeroed in on more people who were allegedly part of the group.

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