In a first, the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) has blocked a website that was allegedly propagating jihadi content and urging Indians to join the Islamic State (IS). The crackdown followed the agency scouting for internet content aimed at inciting Indians to either take up arms in West Asia or commit acts of terror in India.
Isdarat.in was blocked around a fortnight ago after sleuths from the state counter-terrorism agency stumbled upon the website that used Arabic language for posting IS-related content.
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Areeb Majeed, a youth from Kalyan who fled with three of his friends in May 2014 to fight alongside the IS, was the first Indian national to be chargesheeted by an investigating agency on charges of fighting for the dreaded outfit.
“While investigating the Kalyan case, it was revealed that the youths were indoctrinated online and since then, we have a dedicated cyber team that scans IS-related content on the internet and filters it. Key words are used to scan the content and if found to be a threat, the website is immediately blocked or pulled out,” said a senior official, explaining the filtration process adopted by the agency.
“During a routine scan, we came across this website, and as the content was posted in Arabic, we roped in an expert who helped us translate the material. Finding the content highly offensive, we wrote to the Centre, following which it was blocked,” the official added.
Isdarat in Arabic means ‘to spread’ or ‘publish’. The website mainly posted reports on current activities in Iraq related to Indian nationals who have joined the outfit. It referred to IS jihadists as ‘martyrs’ and urged the Indian youth to join ‘the holy war’ that the outfit is currently fighting under the Caliphate.
It also posted pictures of various Indians, including the four Kalyan youth and four alleged IM operatives-Ariz Khan alias Junaid, Md Khalid, Mirza Shadaab Baig and Mohd Sajid alias Bada Sajid-who are believed to have joined the IS recently and have entered Syria through Afghanistan to participate in the war. The website also urged the Indian youth to become lone-wolf attackers and carry out attacks on Indian soil.
“The last time IS trained its guns on Indians was when Fahad (one of the four Kalyan youth) posted a tweet threatening to kill ‘all adult males in India, if they fail to accept Islam’. The NIA was quick to react and the Twitter handle was immediately banned,” informed the official.
In the last three months alone, the agency has deleted around 1,000 posts from various social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and various messenger services that were allegedly used by ‘IS sympathisers’ for propaganda. However, this is the first time they have blocked a website preaching IS literature, the official said.
According to sources, the Internet Protocol address of the website was tracked to Indonesia but it is suspected to have been created using a proxy server.
“We do not think that it originated in Indonesia and might have been floated using a proxy server. This means that finding the origin of the website becomes next to impossible,” the official said.
One of the challenges cops face in taming the digital space is the failure to locate the culprits as most of them use proxy servers. “Many of these posts do not originate from India. It is a mammoth task to locate the miscreants, as we have to send out letters to the websites or the social networking platforms which consumes a lot of time,” police sources explained.
The ATS decided to finally ban the website after it found many Indians active on the website. “We monitored the comments page and found that day by day the number of Indian youths commenting on their website was increasing. This is alarming in nature and therefore we decided to ban it,” the official further said.