IS spreading tentacles in India
The busting of IS module in Hyderabad could just be the tip of an iceberg in the terror network spawned across the country. Going by NIA (National...
The busting of IS module in Hyderabad could just be the tip of an iceberg in the terror network spawned across the country. Going by NIA (National Investigation Agency) sources, the module was being honed in skills to stage major strikes across not only Hyderabad but also across South India.
Though the investigation process is long-winding as each and every operative shown arrested and each and every suspect under detention has to be worked on systematically. The process itself could be painfully slow, which sources admit due to the multiple angles to it.
What is primary to the find is that the module is said to be linked to Karnataka-born Muhammad Shafi Amar, a runaway Indian Mujahideen who is at present leading a group of Indians fighting alongside the foreign forces for the Islamic State.
This is not the first time that the names of Hyderabadis are getting figured in the IS-related networks. The fact that there was Talmeez-ur-Rahman earlier who left for Syria via Turkey should ring the alarm bells for the investigators now.
While prima facie these weapons seized along with training modules and other chemicals with potent explosive characteristics do establish that here was a group planning to strike big ala Mumbai and Paris, their preparations and the training methods which are under probe now are leading to further ringing of alarm bells.
What is bothering the NIA is that all these days there was a room for scepticism over the spectre of Daesh (the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham) on India despite al Qaeda declaring its new project – al Qaeda in the Sub-continent (AQIS, or Jamaat Qaiadat al Jihad fe Shibhi al Qarrat al Hindiya or Organization of the Base of Jihad in the Indian Sub-continent).
Though the worldwide intel agencies were keeping a close tab on those who reached Syria or Iraq via Turkey, Indian agencies perhaps did not care much about it. Agencies have been under the impression that, as far as India is concerned, it has always been reassuring that just 23 Indians are confirmed to have joined Daesh, of whom six are dead and another two have returned to India and are under detention. This leaves just 15 Indians actually fighting alongside Daesh in Iraq-Syria.
Significantly, just six of these 23 went from India; the remaining 17 had been residing abroad for extended periods of time before they joined Daesh. Another 30 youth have been stopped from travelling to Iraq-Syria to join Daesh – in many cases on the basis of information provided by family and friends – and 35 have been deported from various countries for activities linked to Daesh.
It should be recalled that alarm bells also went off when a series of arrests in January-February 2016 neutralised an incipient Daesh-linked formation, Junood-ul-Khalifa-e-Hind (JuKH, Army of the Caliph in India). The group had been recruited by Shafi Armar, the brother of Sultan Armar, both of the Indian Mujahiddeen and located in Pakistan since 2008.
Sultan Armar had broken away from IM and formed the Ansar-ul-Tawhid (AuT, Group for Monotheism in the land of India) that subsequently pledged allegiance to Daesh; he subsequently joined Daesh fighters in Syria and was killed there.
Shafi Armar then took over the group and initiated online recruitment, picking up the remnant threads of the Students Islamic Movement of India and IM in India. The 15 persons recruited by him into the newly formed JuKH were among a total of 26 arrested for Daesh links across India since 2014.
Latest reports indicate that Shafi Armar may now have been killed in a US drone strike in Syria. These occasional and dispersed arrests, detentions and deportations are the sum of the Daesh ‘footprint’ in India.
But if the present group arrested was already working under Shafi Armar (whose brother was killed near the Syrian town of Kobane in March 2014) and the latter got killed by the drone sometime back, then who else has been handling these people? There is also a possibility that some of these have met Talmeez-ur-Rahman, NIA sources believe.
On November 29, 2014, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh noted "even though ISIS was born in Iraq and Syria, the Indian subcontinent cannot stay untouched by it – we need to be aware of that reality.” The time has perhaps now come to be aware of this and the NIA does not want to slip out on any detail now despite scepticism on part of their colleagues in other agencies.
The plan of the five members who had been arrested was to attack "city malls, General Bazaar (in Secunderabad), Secunderabad Railway Station, Jubilee bus station and crowded theatres and streets along with temples.”
Sources say that any laxity on the part of NIA could have resulted in a major terror strike on the lines of Mumbai. That fact that these arrested could set up a shooting range too on the outskirts of the city for practice has come as the most astonishing aspect. More arrests are expected to take place of sleeper cell handlers within the city now it is learnt.
The NIA is at present not willing to give too much away regarding the Hyderabad connection to ISIS. It is in the process of establishing who the handler could be. As mentioned earlier in this report, Shafi Armar had been killed; he was the one handling this group, a key point to the investigation.
The NIA is wary of recent developments wherein it faced highly embarrassing movements due to loopholes in its investigations and the subsequent release of the arrested. Though the chemical substances seized etc are pointers to the foot prints of terror attacks in Europe, the NIA is yet to lay hands on records of either calls or mails from abroad.
The explosives recovered from the house of one of the five Islamic State (IS) suspects, arrested from Hyderabad on Wednesday, "could be similar to chemicals used by the bombers who struck at Brussels airport earlier this year", a senior National Investigation Agency (NIA) official had disclosed to media.
The chemical — triacetone triperoxide (TATP) — recovered from the house of Habeeb Mohammad, can be assembled into dangerous chemical composition mixed with a few other ingredients from chemicals easily available in the market the officials believe.
It is said that it was the group’s leader, Mohammad Ibrahim Yazdani (32), who had tasked Mohammad to prepare the improvised explosive device (IED) at his house. Officials said TATP was the most preferred explosive of the IS and was also used by the Paris suicide bombers in 2015.
However, it is not known whether IS has instructed the Hyderabad module to use it or the latter found it on the net and procured it on an experimental basis as the investigations so far only could say that it was a crude assembly that the NIA found. The investigators would go ahead and find out whether more lone wolf attacks are possible either in Hyderabad or in other metros in the country.
This is a completely different ball game. With those from across the border and linked to the terror groups of Pakistan it seems there is more evidence that could quickly link the activity compared to those with Syrian links, sources admit.
"It is a painstakingly long, long investigation. At least five of those detained in Hyderabad have already been released as the agency has found nothing to link them with the others. But this convincingly establishes that the IS is spreading its plans for India". That is the real danger.