What is more worrying is that despite the tabs kept on the activities of Kitchan Buhari, 38, who served 11 years for his involvement in the Coimbatore bomb blasts, he was able to escape attention while allegedly being involved in enlisting and indoctrinating new recruits after his release from jail. It is now believed that he played an active part in the April 17 blast.
"It is too premature to say how far Peer Mohideen and Basheer, who were picked up from a lodge in Chennai on Monday, were part of Kitchan Buhari's terror network," said a senior police officer. While Mohideen was working in Bangalore for the past five years, Basheer was employed in a private company in Tirunelveli. Whether they were peripheral to the plot or whether they had a central role is being investigated, he said.
Kitchan Buhari, who was arrested on Tuesday for his involvement in the Bangalore blast was among the youngest to be involved in the 1998 Coimbatore blasts. Today, he is apparently a father figure to many radical elements. After his release from jail along with several other convicts in 2009, he ran the 'Charitable Trust for Minorities,' a non-governmental organisation based in Coimbatore, for the rehabilitation of those sentenced in the serial blasts case.
"We knew Buhari and associates were not lying idle. They had come under the scanner for several cases, including usury and for holding kangaroo courts for settling disputes. But, we had no information about their plotting a terror attack," admitted the senior official.
What went unnoticed was that though Buhari had shifted his base to Coimbatore, he made frequent trips to his native village Melapalayam, which used to be a recruiting ground for the banned Al Umma in the 90's until the Coimbatore blasts. The terror outfit had been indoctrinating the poor in Melapalayam.
A concern that now arises is whether there are more such sleeper cells waiting for orders from their guardians to strike. "We do not completely rule out that possibility. Places like Melapalayam, Kottaimedu in Coimbatore and Adirampattinam and Muthupet in Thanjavur are constantly under our watch. Of late, the Kerala-based Popular Front of India has been running camps in Theni and Tirunelveli to woo gullible youth as well as encourage conversion of the underprivileged belonging to other religions," said another official.
Sections in the Muslim community are also concerned about the role of some madrasas which, under the influence of the Wahabi or Salafi strain of Islam, preach intolerance. "Even some schools have sprung up across the country that blend radical thought with scientific education. It is time that police watched out for such institutes," said a Muslim leader.