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When K'taka govt almost inked deal with terrorist

June 20, 2009 20:22 IST

The Karnataka government saved itself of a major embarrassment after it backed on a deal which it was all set to sign with a man involved in an act of terror in Algiers in the year 1992.

Saleem Abbasi, the man in question, was on the radar of the Interpol for his alleged involvement in an explosion at Houari Boumediene airport, Algiers, in 1992.

Abbasi, who was to sign a deal with the Karnataka government to set up a solar plant in Karnataka, had sent his representative a month ago to hold talks with the Karnataka State Planning Board in connection with this project.

D H Shankarmurthy, the deputy chairman of the State Planning Board, said over telephone from Shimoga that Abbasi was supposed to meet him at 2 pm on Thursday. However, he was detained.

"I had no idea about his background and only heard it in the media that this man was wanted by the Interpol."

He also assured that there was nothing to worry about since the government had not gone ahead with any agreement. A month ago, one of his representatives was in touch with me and I received a letter seeking to initiate talks in connection with the project, Shankarmurthy also said.

Abbasi, who was travelling on a Qatar passport, was arrested at Chennai. He was on his way to Bangalore, but was detained by immigration officials who found that he had been on Interpol's wanted list.

Abbasi, aged 42, is an Algerian national who has been on the run since 1992. It is alleged that he and his father Madani Abbasi, the founder of the Islamic Salvation Army, masterminded the blasts at the airport in which nine people were killed and several others injured.

It is learnt that Abbasi confessed about the role played by him in the blasts. Immediately after this news reached Karnataka, government officials notified the Central Bureau of Investigation who in turn confirmed that this was the same man who was wanted by the Interpol.

Abbasi has managed to give the police of his country the slip for a long time. Intelligence Bureau sources told rediff.com that he is not wanted in any case in India. However, he used to travel across the world and concentrated more on his business alone.

A red corner alert had been sounded against this man immediately after the 1992 incident and since then he has remained elusive, IB sources also said.

According to investigating agencies, Abbasi had no intentions of setting up any terror camps in India. His only intention was to strike a deal with the Karnataka government. He was to fly into Bangalore directly from Qatar, but due to the non-availability of a direct flight he took a connecting flight to Chennai.

Abbasi would have managed to enter into Bangalore had it not been for the swine flu virus. He had been stopped initially at the airport for a routine check up which is now being conducted across India. It was during this time that the authorities identified as to what a dangerous man he was.

The IB says that further investigations regarding this man were on. Although prima facie it does not appear that there is anything this man has to do with India, they are taking no chances. He will be questioned for a couple of days. The officials of his country have also been informed and once the formalities are complete, he will be deported.

Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru