Tamil Nadu and AP police teams launched a search operation in Puttur in the early hours of Friday following inputs from a terror suspect arrested earlier that a group of terrorists was holed up in a building and planning to attack the Tirumala temple with bombs. During the searches the police found a pistol and two bombs, but the team was reportedly overpowered by the terror suspects and police inspector Lakshman received knife injuries. Lakshman died while undergoing treatment at a hospital in Chennai on Saturday morning.
The joint operation, which sent shockwaves in Chittoor district, ended at around 2.00 pm. The police arrested terror suspects identified as Bilal Malik and Panna Ismail while two others escaped. The police did not use firearms fearing stocks of explosives in the building. They fired teargas shells to bring the terrorists out of the building. Bilal Malik and Panna Ismail were injured in the operation and were shifted to hospital.
Along with the terror suspects, a woman and three children stayed in the building. The woman and children came out of the building around noon and they were taken into custody by the local police. According to locals, the suspects have been staying in the area for about six months. They identified themselves as iron scrap merchants. The family had been evasive and did not mingle much with neighbours. The men used to return home late in the night.
The police had a tough time controlling the surging crowds. Hundreds of people gathered in the area. The street where the building is located was cordoned off to ensure smooth operation.
According to police, the suspects were involved in about 10 cases in Tamil Nadu and the murder case of a BJP leader. They allegedly used a pipe bomb during the visit of senior BJP leader L K Advani to Tamil Nadu. All the suspects hail from Coimbatore.
Police suspect that the alleged terrorists were planning to hide bombs in traditional umbrellas brought from Chennai for the ongoing Garudothsavam of Lord Sri Venkateswara at Tirumala.
The police began the operation after a terror suspect arrested at Tiruvallur in Tamil Nadu recently gave information about the other suspects staying in Puttur. The town is located about 60 km from Tirupati and is famous for its scores of traditional bone-setting clinics and betel nut powder. People from all over the country visit Puttur for bone healing.