Bhatkal and its links with terrorism; The place of top guns of IM and ISIS

Bhatkal, 140 km north of Mangalore in coastal Karnataka is dominated with Nawayaths, who claim to have come from Arabia in the 8th century as traders and struck gold. Bhatkal never had a violent history but was known as “Mini Dubai” as imported perfumes, electronic gadgets and branded clothes clothes were sold in the town in the 1990s.

Bhatkal and its relationship with Pakistan

The Nawayath community in Bhatkal had a very good relationship with the Pakistan and there was regular trade between these since 1920s. After the partition, few Nawayath families migrated to Pakistan. Bhatkal had not witnessed any kind of communal violence but in 1996 a BJP MLA Chittaranjan was murdered by an unidentified gunman. The suspects weren’t identified and all the culprits roamed free. Locals of Bhatkal say that there is a massive amount of money from the Middle East through hawalas. It is said that ISI is involved in various communal riots.

Terrorists from Bhatkal

Many youths from Bhatkal have been the victims of  Islamic radicalization. Riyaz and Iqbal brothers have been successful in recruiting many youths to the terrorist groups.

Riyaz Bhatkal

He is also known as Shah Riyaz Ahmad Mohammed Ismail Shahbandari aka Riyaz Ismail Shahbandri, is the founder leader and a wanted terrorist of Indian Mujahideen, a terrorist group based in India. Riyaz Ismail Shahbandri is one of the Indian Mujahideen’s three top commanders and is currently based in Karachi, Pakistan along with his brother Iqbal Bhatkal.

He had arranged delivery of 35 kg of explosives used in the 07/11 Mumbai blasts. He was the mastermind in planning, execution and financing of Hyderabad, Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Delhi serial blasts

Iqbal Bhatkal

Iqbal Bhatkal aka Iqbal Shahbandri is the ideologue, leader and wanted terrorist Indian Mujahideen, a terrorist group based in India. He is the brother  of Riyaz Bhatkal.
He took part in activities of the Islamic movement Tablighi Jamaat and listened to many lectures by Zakir Naik by, a Muslim who founded the Islamic Research Foundation. These lectures seemed to have a deep impact of Iqbal and are said to have led him to violence

Iqbal is the mastermind of the Mumbai train blasts, he was also responsible for providing logistics for serial blasts in Hyderabad. He was actively involved in Jaipur blasts. He was also involved in the Germany bakery blast, which resulted in the death of seventeen and injury of sixty-four people. Iqbal had personally supervised the transport of explosives for Ahmedabad and Delhi blasts. He has taken over the leadership of IM and now recruits cadres for the terror outfit to carry out attacks against India.

Yasin Bhatkal

Mohammed Ahmed Siddibappa, named Yasin Bhatkal by Indian investigative agencies, is the founder leader of the proscribed terrorist organisation Indian Mujahideen. He was listed on the NIA Most Wanted until his arrest on the India-Nepal border near Motihar, Bihar on 28 August 2013. Yasin undertook arms and explosive training in Pakistan in 2006 to launch terror attacks. He has been sentenced to death by a NIA court in Hyderabad on 19 th of Dec 2016

Bhatkal is accused of direct involvement in over 10 separate bombings in India. These include the 2008 Delhi bombings and the 2010 Varanasi blasts. He is also suspected to have played an active role in the 2006 Mumbai serial train bombings.

Bhatkal is currently lodged at Tihar Jail in Delhi.

Armar brothers

Sultan Armar and Shafi Armar

Riyaz Bhatkal had roped in the Armar brothers and then called them to Pakistan. At Pakistan it was decided that the Armar brothers would go to Oman set up a base and then focus on Indian recruitments.

After breaking away from the IM, the Armar brothers decided to join the Al-Qaeda. However at that point in time, the ISIS was growing fast and they felt that this outfit was a better bet. Also the fading prospects of the Al-Qaeda was another reason for them to consider the ISIS.

Both the brothers then went up online and began posting literature for the ISIS. They managed to get the attention of the top rung of the ISIS and one fine day as the Global Islamic Council was announced the Armar brothers became the choice for the ISIS.

It was speculated that Shafi had died alongside his brother Sultan in a 2015 bombing in Syria. But the US department’s statement has confirmed that he is alive.

Recently the US State Treasury Department, while updating its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT), has included in it Armar, a native of Bhatkal in Karnataka.

Bhatkal is highly under the radar of national intelligence since a decade. Youths are secretly contacted by these terrorists and are made to fight against their own nation. Government is taking a tough stand and hope that Bhatkal goes back to its former position of communal harmony.

Vikrant Raj