Little it dawned on them that ‘fugitives’ were around

Abubacker, who runs a textile shop at Perumbavoor, is yet to recover from the shock to which he woke up in the early morning hours on Saturday.

When he received a call from Perumbavoor police inspector around 2 a.m. asking about the house of one of his employee Mosaraf Hossen from Murshidabad in West Bengal, hardly did he imagine that his trusted worker for the last 10 years would be declared an Al-Qaeda fugitive shortly.

“He was with me for three years initially and then he returned home. By the time he came back seven years ago, he was married and his family was also with him. I still can’t believe this,” said Mr. Abubacker who always found him good-mannered with everyone, including the customers.

Mosaraf was so trusted that he opened the shop daily and Abubacker and his brother only came in the afternoon. “There was nothing suspicious about him, else I would have thrown him out long back. His elder daughter is in a local school and is the class topper and I have seen him swell with pride on getting appreciative calls from the school,” said Mr. Abubacker who was devastated on witnessing the heart-rending cries of Mosaraf’s wife.

“If I can’t trust a man who has been with me for 10 years whom will I trust now,” he wondered. Mosaraf’s co-worker at the shop Thahir from Assam is also in disbelief knowing that the man who worked with him till the other day has turned a terror accused literally overnight.

Haris who employed the other terror accused Iyakub Biswas in his shop selling readymade porotta and chappathi at Kandanthara at Perumbavoor is equally perplexed. He was summoned to his shop by the police after Iyakub was nabbed when he was about to start his job around 2.30 a.m.

“He had left me about one-and-a-half-year unsatisfied about the pay. He then returned three months ago when we reopened the shop after the lockdown. Never during his time with us did we have any reason to suspect that something was amiss,” he said.

Those in the neighbourhood of Murshid Hasan, who was picked up from a rented house in Pathalam, also failed to see what was coming for who they regarded as an unassuming and a religious youngster.

“He had been staying in that home for some months now since the lockdown and appeared a decent man. To my knowledge he was not into drinking or such other vices,” said a man in the neighbourhood who did not want to be named considering the serious charge against his neighbour.

The house where he stayed was frequently rented out to migrant workers and till before the lockdown there was 20-odd occupants. Everyone left following the lockdown and now there were around five migrants workers. They deposed before the NIA and later told the media that their room mate used to spend considerable time in laptop and mobile and did not always work.

“Pathalam is house to a large migrant community and there are many houses rented out to them. However, owners never really give the exact number of occupants and that posed us serious difficulty after the floods of 2018,” said Jasmine Muhammadkunju, local councillor.

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