Tamil Nadu: Arrest of 3 al-Qaeda suspects reinforces spectre of terror tentacles in South India. [Representational image]Creative Commons

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Monday arrested three youngsters suspected to be connected with al-Qaeda from Madurai in Tamil Nadu, somewhat reinforcing the spreading of the tentacles of terrorist groups in southern India.

The recent past has seen several instances of youngsters from states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu being either picked up by security forces for their links to terrorist groups like the Islamic State group  — also known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) — or having actually joined them and moved abroad. 

Monday's arrests

On Monday, the NIA arrested M Khareem, Asif Sultan Mohammed and Abbas Ali from Madurai for allegedly planning to attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several other politicians. They had also threatened several embassies in India, according to an IANS report. The NIA later told reporters that digital devices like mobile phones and hard discs had been seized from the trio. 

Earlier, a Hindu report had quoted Madurai City Police Commissioner Shailesh Kumar Yadav as saying that only Abbas Ali was arrested by the NIA in connection with the Mysuru court blast case and that others were detained for questioning. He also said that the operation to nab the trio was carried out with the assistance of the local police.

Terror tentacles in South India

Early last month, the NIA had arrested seven people across South India. First, six of them had been arrested from two districts in Kerala. The information they provided had led to the arrest of the seventh from Tamil Nadu, revealing a well-spread terror network in these two South Indian states. 

Subsequently, a probe by the NIA into missing individuals from Kerala who were suspected of terrorism had revealed that at least 30 of them had gone to Afghanistan to be trained to be ISIS operatives and had returned to the state. The probe had also reportedly revealed that NRI businessmen were funding these activities. 

India Today had quoted a senior police official as saying in reaction to the probe: "The image of secular Kerala is a vanity. The state has been a breeding ground of terror networks. Many organisations and religious outfits were facilitating their activities."