ONE OF the two Islamic State (IS) recruiters behind the online identity Yusuf-al-Hindi, could possibly have been Mohammad Sajid alias Bada Sajid, who hailed from Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh and is believed by Indian agencies to have been killed in 2015 while fighting in Syria.
This is what IS sympathiser Amzad Khan, who was deported to India from Saudi Arabia in April, has indicated to interrogators, while identifying a photograph of Yusuf-al-Hindi, sources told The Indian Express.
Sajid was a member of Indian Mujahideen (IM) before fleeing to Pakistan after a security crackdown in 2008, from where he and Karnataka-born Shafi Armar migrated to Afghanistan and Syria. Armar was recently designated as a ‘global terrorist’ by the US.
Investigators believe that Sajid and Armar had radicalised Indians online using the same identity — Yusuf-al-Hindi. “It is possible that after Sajid’s death, Armar has been handling the account,” said sources.
According to sources, Khan, a 37-year-old from Rajasthan, told interrogators: “In the beginning, Yusuf had set a photo taken from his back as his profile picture (on his Telegram account). By the end of December 2015, he changed it to one taken from the front.” Investigators believe this image was one of the same set of photographs taken from two angles.
Khan told interrogators that he later saw the same person in a video posted on social media by the IS in May 2016, purportedly showing those who had gone to Syria from Maharashtra.
“I came in contact with Yusuf in June-July, 2015 and wanted to go for hijra (migration)… There was Bhatkali written on his Telegram user ID… Yusuf informed me that he belonged to Bhatkal, Karnataka. Yusuf also informed that he along with his brothers migrated to Afghanistan and joined Taliban. After some time, they shifted to Iraq-Syria after they had some dispute with the Taliban. Yusuf informed that he was at Raqqa in Syria,” Khan told interrogators.
However, Khan also told interrogators that he suspected Yusuf-al-Hindi of “working” for Indian agencies and being “responsible” for the arrests of dozens of youth in India.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) believes that Khan, alias Ayan Khan Salafi, was one of the “principal characters” in a conspiracy by the newly formed Junood-ul-Khilafa-Fil-Hind to carry out subversive activities in India.
During his stay in Saudi Arabia, sources said, Khan allegedly orchestrated the Church Street blasts in Bengaluru 2014 with the help of local resident Alamzeb Afridi, who was later arrested by NIA.
Investigators also believe that Khan was in regular contact online with Afridi and that they were communicating through various platforms and applications such as Facebook, Nimbuzz, Trillian and Telegram. Khan allegedly played a key role in motivating and linking members of the new organisation, which has pledged allegiance to IS, sources said.