India Faces Up to Growing Islamic State Threat
One of the first indications of the Islamic State’s potential appeal in India occurred in late 2014, when Aarif Majeed, a youth from the state of Maharashtra, returned to the country from Iraq, where he had reportedly received training from the Islamic State (Times of India, November 28, 2014). He and three other youths from the State had reportedly travelled to Iraq and Syria in May last year specifically to the join the organization. Following this incident, in December 2014, a Bengaluru-based engineer, Mehdi Masroor Biswas, was arrested for allegedly managing and running the influential pro-Islamic State Twitter account “ShamiWitness,” an event which seems to have served as a wake-up call for the Indian security establishment (Indian Express, December 14, 2014).
Since then, authorities have said that it estimated that a total of 13 Indian nationals have joined the Islamic State so far, of whom six have already died during the fighting in Iraq and Syria (Indian Express, August 4). Another 17 men have been arrested or detained while attempting to leave India to join the organization. These youths are from several different states, but most are from Telangana, Maharashtra and Karnataka.
Further evidence of Indian nationals in the Islamic State has come through social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook, either run by jihadist sympathizers or the group’s own media units. For instance, on July 21, images of a boatful of purported Indians were released by al-Hayat Media, the Islamic State’s media wing. Jihadist pseudonyms of alleged Indian fighters were also released. These include the slain “Abu Turab al-Hindi,” who was in fact Muhammad Sajid, a prominent member of the Indian Mujahideen militant group accused of involvement in several bombings in India in 2008, and “Abu Qaqa al-Hindi,” another Indian Mujahideen fugitive who is presently with the Islamic State (Indian Express, July 21). Another Indian Mujahedeen fugitive, Abdul Khadir Sultan Armar, was killed in March 2014, in heavy fighting in the Kurdish town of Kobane in Syria (One India, December 8, 2014). Sultan Armar is believed by the Indian authorities to have previously been involved in recruiting for the Islamic State, mostly from Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. Following his death, the Islamic State has reportedly installed his brother and fellow jihadist, Shafi Armar (a.k.a. Yusuf al-Hindi) at the leadership position of Ansar-ut Tawhid (AuT), an India-centric militant splinter group, and as head of is recruitment in India. Both Armar brothers were reported to have previously undergone militant training in North Waziristan, Pakistan (One India, May 6).
Courtsey: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 13 Issue: 17, August 21, 2015 [Jamestown Foundation, Washington DC)