Muthiurrahman Siddiqui, courtesy: Facebook
Yesterday, Bangalore police arrested 11 persons, including a DRDO scientist and a journalist, with alleged links to Lashkar-e-Taiba and HUJI. and claimed to have foiled their plot to target MPs, MLAs and media persons in Karnataka.
Among the 11, the most shocking inclusion was a Bangalore-based journalist who has since been named by the police as the “mastermind” of the alleged plot:
The Indian Express reports:
A 7.65 mm pistol and seven bullets have been shown as recovered from the Bangalore house from where six of the 11 were arrested on Wednesday evening. Among them are Muthi-ur-Rehman Siddiqui, 26, a journalist who has been with Deccan Herald for the last three years
The Times of India reports:
However, people who've known him said Siddiqui was a soft-spoken person serious about journalism and helpful to colleagues. They said he never wore his extremist beliefs, if any, on his sleeve. Sources added the right-wing leanings of a few journalists and MPs and MLAs made them targets.
The Indian Express adds:
Police sources said that the arrests were a result of monitoring activities of the group over a period by Andhra Pradesh counter-intelligence authorities. One of the main targets of the group was prominent columnist Pratap Simha from the Kannada daily Kannada Prabha, the sources said. Two editors of publications that used Simha’s columns and BJP MP from Hubli, Prahlad Joshi, were also targets, they added.
Media blog Sans Serif quotes Kannada daily, Kannada Prabha and names the other media persons who are alleged to have been on this hit-list:
The editor in question is Vishweshwar Bhat, the editor-in-chief of the Kannada daily, Kannada Prabha, and the Kannada 24×7 news channel, Suvarna News (both owned by the member of Parliament, Rajeev Chandrasekhar).
The columnist is Pratap Simha, the news editor of Kannada Prabha.
The publisher is Vijay Sankeshwar, the truck operator who built Kannada no.1 daily Vijaya Karnataka (where Bhat and Simha were employed), before they moved out two years ago after he sold the paper to The Times of India group. (Sankeshwar now runs a rival daily called Vijaya Vani.)
The TOI adds:
"Siddiqui collected details of persons they decided to kill. His journalistic contacts helped him learn more about the targets and their movements and report to his bosses in Dubai," sources said.
Born on September 9, 1985, Siddiqui studied in a government Urdu school in Hubli, before moving to Hassan for SSLC. He joined Nehru College in Hassan for his PU course in science but later joined Karnataka College, Dharwad for his BA degree. He became a reporter and translator in a Dharwad newspaper.
The Deccan Herald reports from Hubli, from where several of the suspects were picked up:
“The two suspects had come to Hubli recently. They were allegedly given instructions by journalist Muthi-Ur Rahman Siddiqui to spread jihad in the region, the neighbours said.
“Siddiqui, it is said, was the secretary of the Students’ Islamic Organisation four years ago.
“Subsequently, he shifted to Bangalore where he allegedly came in contact with the banned Bangladesh-based HUJI and recruited operatives for the terrorist outfit.
“Sources said Siddiqui allegedly met other terror suspects in the City regularly and conspired to kill political leaders. They were in Bangalore on August 5 and had used a certain Imran’s computer to send hate SMSes and posted inciting video clippings online to spread rumours that North-Eastern people would be attacked.”
Families of many of those arrested have expressed shock and disbelief at the arrests. Meanwhile, the Hindu has issued a clarification:
In a report from Bangalore published in the issue of August 31, headlined “Journalist among 11 arrested for ‘plotting terror in Karnataka’,” the description of some journalists who were purportedly targeted by the alleged plotters as ones “known for their virulent anti-minority columns” was unfair and unwarranted, and escaped gatekeeping mechanisms that are in place to keep such editorialising comments out of the news columns of this newspaper. That description, as well as the loose and imprecise reference to the “divergent ideologies” of two terrorist organisations are regretted and may be deemed as withdrawn. — The Editor