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Mohammad Shariq’s Kodagu visit puts spotlight back on safety of home-stays, forests

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The NIA has found that Shariq and his accomplice Maaz Muneer Ahmed, also an accused in the 2020 terror graffiti case, had attended a training camp in the Karnataka jungles to learn jungle survival skills.

New Delhi, Dec 06: The forests of South India are back in the news following the botched up bomb blast in Mangaluru which was carried out by Mohammad Shariq. The National Investigation Agency has learnt that Shariq and his accomplice, Maaz Muneer Ahmed also an accused in the 2020 terror graffiti case, had attended a camp in the Karnataka jungles to learn jungle survival skills. The Islamic State wanting to set up a jungle camp had cropped up in 2020 when the NIA probed the ISIS Daishwilayah in the Indian forests case.

The NIA found that Shariq and Maaz had also stayed at a home-stay in Kodagu district in Karnataka. Following this revelation, the agency raided a home-stay near the forest area at west Nemmale village. The owner of the home-stay has been asked to join in the investigation and also record his version.

Mohammad Shariq

Training in the forests:

The NIA learnt that 14 persons were part of this training camp. The agency has collected documents and records from the owner of the home-stay. The NIA is currently in the process of identifying the other members of the Islamic State who had trained in the forests.

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When the probe began, the police learnt that Shariq, along with one Taha, had planned to establish an Islamic State province in the forests. Back in 2020 when the agency was probing another case relating to the Islamic State, it found that a similar modus operandi was being planned. Records revealed that the ISIS Daishwilayah or the province in the Indian forests was part of the plan.

These elements wanted to train recruits in the forests. Shariq, the NIA learnt, had been asked to visit the forests and obtain training in survival skills. He was instructed by some members who are part of the Islamic State module in Hyderabad.

Home-stays:

In Kodagu district, home-stays have become more problematic over the years. Not only has it messed with the ecosystem leading to excessive flooding and landslides, it has also brought up the question of security. It is not clear whether the owner who let Shariq and Maaz stay had verified their antecedents. The agencies have been warning that unauthorised stays such as this are a huge security risk.

A similar situation had cropped up in Kerala several years back. Following a series of blasts, Indian Mujahideen, India head, Yasin Bhatkal and his associates had checked into a home-stay in Kerala. Kodagu and Kerala are major tourist destinations and hence the home-stays have thrived, but the problem begins with the unauthorised ones, an Intelligence Bureau official tells OneIndia.

The rise of these home-stays has put the residents in the neighbourhood at risk. They have raised questions about the kind of people visiting these home-stays. It is a threat to law and order as there is no guidelines in place for such home-stays.

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The issue even cropped up in Goa recently with the menace of the unauthorised home-stays going up. In this regard the District Magistrates North and South Goa had issued an order under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The owners of houses, buildings, flats, hotels, lodges, paying guests and other residential accommodation in North Goa were ordered to mandatorily conduct tenant verification.

The order said that in view of the prevailing situation in the country and intelligence reports regarding possible threats along the western coast of India and the possibility of anti-social elements with an intention of committing crime in Goa and elsewhere staying in houses, flats or buildings on rent, it is a must to ensure proper verification of the antecedents of the persons staying in such accommodation.

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