New Delhi, June 26: Illegal quarries have become the source of explosives for terrorist groups. A few illegal quarries in Karnataka have come under the scanner following a confession of Indian Mujahideen operatives who have told the police that they would easily procure explosives from such units.
Prior to the carrying out the Chinnaswamy stadium blast and the 13/7 attacks, both Yasin Bhatkal and Assadullah Akthar had visited few quarries in Karnataka and sourced explosives that were used in the blasts.
Both the Karnataka police and the Maharashtra ATS have included these submissions in their case files and the hunt to track the owners of these illegal quarries supplying explosives to terrorists is on.
The role of illegal quarries:
The role of illegal quarries have come under the scanner of various investigating agencies several times. Recently several quarry owners running their business illegally were investigated by the Q branch in Tamil Nadu.
It was found that they were supplying explosives to criminals after sourcing the material through illegal channels.
The Indian Mujahideen too relied heavily on illegal quarries for ammonium nitrate and other explosives to carry out strikes. Illegal quarries are those which operate without the license from the mines and geology department. They also procure explosives and supply them to legal quarries which carry out mining or blasting activity beyond the permissible limits.
Yasin Bhatkal who was the leader of the Indian Mujahideen has told the police that he relied on several quarries operating near Chickmagalur in Karnataka to source the explosives. The illegal quarry owners used to supply explosives such as ammonium nitrate and gelatine sticks without verifying the antecedents of the purchaser as they would be paid a good sum of money.
Stealing ammonium nitrate:
While in some cases, illegal quarry owners sold the ammonium nitrate to gangs and terrorists, there have been instances when the same has been stolen as well. Terrorist groups have bribed some of the quarry owners to steal ammonium nitrate and hand it over to them.
Yasin Bhatkal's admission before the police suggests that ammonium nitrate was easily procurable as they were many quarry owners and workers who would sell the same at a good price. After several blasts rocked the country between 2006 and 2011 the government had regulated the sale of ammonium nitrate in the country.
Investigating officials say that while there is a regulation in place, instances of ammonium nitrate being smuggled out of quarries or sold illegally persist. It is a difficult task to undertake and the surveillance needs to be continous.
Lack of political will:
Officials say that there is a lack of political will to stop illegal quarrying not just in Karnataka but in the entire country as well. However the illegal quarries in Karnataka continue to be the focus since every blast that was undertaken by the Indian Mujahideen had a Karnataka connection.
Yasin Bhatkal being a native of Karnataka relied on the quarries of Karnataka to procure the explosives. In fact when he commenced operations for the first time he had visited several quarries in Chickmagalur and the surrounding areas of Shivamogga to procure ammunition.
The High Court of Karnataka a couple of days back took congnisance of a matter pertaining to illegal quarrying. On Monday it had issued notices to Energy Minister D K Shivakumar, his wife Usha, brother D K Suresh and others, in connection with their alleged involvement in illegal quarrying around Kanakapura taluk in Ramanagaram district.
Acting on a public interest petition filed by B S Narayana Swamy, secretary, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, and A C Shivaraju, a social worker, the court had issued notices.
The petitioners sought a CBI inquiry into the alleged illegal quarrying of coloured granite in Kanakapura in which D K Shivakumar and his family members were allegedly involved.