BANGALORE: The 11 persons arrested on terrorism charges made calls on the internet to contact the kingpins of a plot to kill high-profile individuals in Karnataka. Skype was their favoured mode.
Most of these men, including an engineer with DRDO and a journalist, are highly educated. They used internet telephony to keep their communications with their Saudi Arabia-based kingpins secret, and to cut costs.
“We have seized laptops and accessed the calls made by the suspects. The calls have been traced to Saudi Arabia,” deputy chief minister R Ashoka, who is in charge of the home department, told TOI. “More than 100 terrorism-related SMSs and emails have been accessed.”
Police say the arrested men had plans to kill Dharwad MP Prahlad Joshi, MLC and newspaper baron Vijay Sankeshwar and journalists Vishveshwar Bhat and Prathap Simha. Six of them were arrested in Bangalore on Wednesday and the others in Hubli.
The state government has asked Interpol to probe the conversations and share its inputs with India. The suspects also made video calls on smartphones and laptops. Cyber experts say VoIP’s biggest advantage over standard telephone systems is its low cost. Internet calls to Saudi Arabia are cost-effective and difficult to trace.
Ashoka said: “The home department is writing to the ministry of home affairs ( MHA) asking for its inputs on the flow of money to these operatives. Even Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde has sought details. These people would not have gained strength without proper training. We suspect a couple of them trained in Saudi Arabia. One of the arrested men posed as a Hindu to get a job.” Sources in the home department said Intelligence Bureau sleuths are camping in Bangalore since Thursday.
Recce of soudhas
The police feel the suspects conducted a recce of vital buildings such as Vidhana Soudha and Vikasa Soudha. “Hard disks from the computers used by the journalist at his workplace and other documents have been seized. The employers of the journalist have cooperated with us,” police sources said.
Why scribes were target
Prathap Simha, a journalist with Kannada Prabha, was a target along with his editor Vishveshwar Bhat. The suspects allegedly wanted to kill Simha because he had written a book in Kannada on the Gujarat CM titled “Narendra Modi – Yaaru Thuliyada Haadi” (Narendra Modi – The Untrodden Road) in 2008. “A laptop seized from a suspect contains this book and a picture of Simha interviewing Modi,” a senior police officer said. When contacted, Simha said: “I have also written a book on Muhammed Ali Jinnah in Kannada.”