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Rana, Headley were in Kochi last year to recruit youngsters

By Arun Lakshman
November 15, 2009 18:30 IST
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Tahawur Hussain Rana, who was arrested in the United States along with terror operative David Headley by the Federal Bureau of Investigation last month, had visited Kochi on November 16 and had stayed in Taj Residency (now named Gateway) for a day.

The Central Intelligence Agency has gathered details of Rana's stay in Kochi and has found that he had been in town on a recruitment mission named 'Talent spotting'.

Intelligence sleuths confirmed to that Rana had stayed in the hotel along with his wife Samraz Akthar.

State police officials are, however, tightlipped on the subject and have refused to confirm the details.

An intelligence officer told on condition of anonymity that Rana's passport, bearing number JV 533373, was issued in Canada and his residential address in Chicago had been confirmed from the hotel records.

According to sources, Rana was in the port city under the pretext of recruiting for an immigration agency First World Immigration Services, while the actual purpose was to recruit potential terrorists.

Sources told that Rana was recruitment process was funded by the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and was aimed at getting in touch with youngsters in cities who would be made part of new sleeper cells.

Rana, according to the agencies, had even advertised the recruitment in leading newspapers in Kochi, saying the firm would provide visas to US and Canada on a "limited time money-back guarantee" scheme.

He had released the advertisement through Mumbai-based Prachar agency and had given an email address for contact:

Central investigation agencies have also tracked the presence of Headley in Kochi, but had reportedly stayed at a private place and hence no records of his stay are available.

Intelligence agencies believe C M A Basheer, the former president of the outlawed Students Islamic Movement of India who hails from Aluva town in Kerala, had helped the two in settling in the state.

Basheer is on the wanted list of the Interpol.

Sources in the intelligence agencies confirmed that both Headley and Rana had taken a recce of Cochin port trust and Nedumbassery airport, two of the major landmarks in Kochi.
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Arun Lakshman in Thiruvananthapuram