On the evening of 19 November 2022, a low intensity bomb exploded in a moving auto in Mangaluru, causing massive fire and smoke, with the passenger and the auto driver sustaining injuries. A day later, two pieces of evidence – an Aadhar card and two SIM cards retrieved at the site, helped the Karnataka police in understanding the chain of events that led to the blast.
The police have now confirmed the blast was "an act of terror" and that the passenger in the auto, identified as Shariq, is the main accused.
Mangaluru Blast Accused was Inspired by ISIS: Karnataka Police
The main suspect in the Mangaluru auto-blast case, Shariq, aged 24, is a history sheeter and is an accused in two other unlawful activities case in Karnataka since 2020.
The Quint has learnt that Shariq was born and raised in Shivamogga’s Thirthahalli, the constituency of home minister Araga Jnanendra. Sources from the police department revealed that he was a student of B Com, who dropped out to help his father in the cloth business. He was not a very loquacious person, but was brainwashed into following radical Islam as interpreted by the terror organisation Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Requesting anonymity, a police officer from Shivamogga told The Quint, "Shariq was involved in making bombs by watching videos of explosive making on the internet."
By 2020, Shariq was active in several social media and telegram groups that were promoting terrorism, the police said. He was first arrested in 2020 for drawing a terror graffiti on a wall in Mangaluru. The words read, "Do not force us invite Lakshkar-E-Taiba and Taliban to deal with Sanghis and Manuvadis #LashkarZindabad." However, he was released on bail on technical grounds.
In a span of another one year, Shariq had left his home in Thirthahalli and had established contacts in Mangaluru. He became close to Syed Yasin of Shivamogga and Maz Muneer Ahmed of Mangaluru, both students of electrical engineering who helped Shariq develop a low intensity bomb that they tested on the banks of river Tunga in Shivamogga’s Gurupura. The team were also involved in the funding process, and got their money through crypto currency to buy the explosive material, a press release issued by the Karantaka Police in 2021 read.
The police examining the site of the trial blast, picked up remnants with the help of the FSL team and found elements of sulphur and phosphorus, which are predominantly used in bomb detonators. They also collected evidence of them burning the national flag, 14 mobile phones, one dongle, two laptops, and a few other electronic instruments, which led to the arrest of all two, while Shariq remained absconding.
Prior to making his visit to Mangaluru, for the execution of the blast, Shariq had travelled to Coimbatore, Thalassery and Mysore, where he resided for a few months, the police said.
Speaking to the reporters in Mangaluru, ADGP Alok Kumar confirmed that the accused Shariq's immediate handler was identified as Arafat Ali, and that he was also in touch with one Mussavir Hussain, an accused in Al-Hind module case. Three others who had contacted Shariq are yet to be identified.
According to the police, the NIA team deployed in the state to probe the blast has recovered explosive materials purchased both online and offline.
In an interaction with The Quint, senior police officer Alok Kumar further added:
"The blast case does have some loose ends. This is because, we have found sim cards, some fake IDs and explosives at his residence as well. One sim card belongs to Surendran and the the Aadhar Card belongs to Arun Kumar Gawli, a resident Bellary's Sandur. Another sim card retrieved belongs to a person from Gadag. The police are trying to reach all these people and to investigate the case further."
As of now, the family of Shariq have identified him at the hospital, while five different teams of Karnataka police, with the exception of separate NIA teams are carrying out raids in four different location in Thirthahalli and one place in Mangaluru city.
Last night, the rented residence of Shariq was also checked for evidence, with the state police seizing more than three kilos of chemicals, 13 batteries, and other explosive materials in Mysuru.