NIA conducts 'largest-ever' raids in 15 states over terror funding charges, arrests 45 top PFI leaders
The coordinated searches were jointly conducted by NIA, ED and the State Police forces at 93 locations across India. The maximum number of arrests were made in Kerala (19) followed by Tamil Nadu (11).
New Delhi: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday (September 22, 2022) spearheaded a multi-agency operation in 15 states and arrested as many as 45 top leaders and members of the Popular Front of India (PFI) for allegedly supporting terror activities in the country, officials said. The coordinated searches were jointly conducted by NIA, Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the State Police forces at 93 locations in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Goa, West Bengal, Bihar and Manipur.
"These searches were conducted at the houses and offices of the top PFI leaders and members in connection with five cases registered by the NIA following continued inputs and evidence that the PFI leaders and cadres were involved in the funding of terrorism and terrorist activities, organising training camps for providing armed training and radicalising people to join banned organisations," an official statement read.
During the searches, which have been termed as the "largest-ever investigation process till date", incriminating documents, cash, sharp-edged weapons, and a large number of digital devices have been seized.
According to officials, the maximum number of arrests were made in Kerala (19) followed by Tamil Nadu (11), Karnataka (7), Andhra Pradesh (4), Rajasthan (2), and one each from Uttar Pradesh and Telangana.
"A large number of criminal cases have been registered by different states over the last few years against the PFI and its leaders and members for their involvement in many violent acts. Criminal violent acts carried out by PFI such as chopping off the hand of a college professor, cold-blooded killings of persons associated with organisations espousing other faiths, collection of explosives to target prominent people and places, support to Islamic State and destruction of public property have had a demonstrative effect of striking terror in the minds of the citizens," the official statement said.
To date, the NIA is investigating a total of 19 PFI-related cases, including the five mentioned above.
PFI was formed in 2006 in Kerala
The Popular Front of India was formed in 2006 in Kerala and is headquartered in Delhi. It claims to strive for a neo-social movement ostensibly for the empowerment of marginalised sections of India. It is, however, often accused by law enforcement agencies of promoting radical Islam.
Meanwhile, PFI has called for a state-wide "hartal" in Kerala on September 23 to protest against the raids carried out in their organisation's offices, residences of leaders and other premises.
A PFI statement in Kerala said that its state committee felt that the arrest of the leaders was part of "state-sponsored terrorism".
"A hartal will be observed in the state on September 23 against the RSS-controlled fascist government's attempt to silence dissenting voices using the central agencies," A Abdul Sathar, Kerala general secretary, PFI, said.
(With agency inputs)