Arrested on January 16, 2015, from Hyderabad airport
“I had no livelihood here (in Hyderabad), and used to spend hours together over Internet chatting with ‘Daula Newsroom’ group members. I felt that western forces are plundering Muslim property and Muslims are facing pitiable situation all over the world and the solution is to establish Islamic State, where Sharia law can be implemented,” electronics engineer Salman Mohiuddin told his interrogators after being arrested from Hyderabad’s international airport on January 16 this year.
The Cyberabad police has alleged that Mohiuddin, 32, the father of two, was about to fly to Dubai, from where he planned to reach Syria via Turkey to join the IS, when he was held, making him the third arrest in India for association with the terror outfit. This was months after he had to return to Hyderabad from the US over visa issues.
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In his interrogation report, accessed by The Indian Express, Mohiuddin claimed to have been attracted to the IS as he faced discrimination in the US and said he intended to “proceed to Syria to join the IS and later return to wage war against India”. His only “weakness” recorded by the interrogators was “smoking”.
The indoctrination: Meeting Nicky Joseph
The son of a retired chief engineer of the Andhra Pradesh Housing Board, Mohiuddin did his BTech from Anwar-ul-Uloom College of Engineering and Technology in Vikarabad. Married in 2007, a year before he graduated, he had two children, a daughter and a son, in quick succession.
In 2010, Mohiuddin left for the US to do a Masters in Science in transportation planning and management from Texas Southern University in Houston. For two years, till 2014, he worked as a desktop support engineer at oilfield service company Baker Hughes in Texas and at Merathon Petroleum in Findlay, Ohio.
“While I was in Texas (2011), I came in contact with a lady, Nicky Joseph (a British national), staying in Dubai through YouTube… I came to know that she converted to Islam from Christianity… I learnt that she married one doctor and intended to marry a Muslim. I proposed her to marry… she agreed,” Mohiuddin told interrogators. “I and Nicky Joseph alias Ayesha decided to join ISIS to fight in favour of ISIS through illegal border crossing of Turkey.”
Joseph, who has now been identified as Afsha Jabeen, an Indian-origin mother of three who was at the time based in Dubai, has denied having any plans of accompanying Mohiuddin to Syria.
Arrested in Hyderabad in September on deportation from the UAE, Jabeen, however, has admitted to interrogators that she pretended to be Nicky Joseph and told Mohiuddin that she was married to a Christian, and that her cardiologist husband harassed her. She told him she intended to divorce and marry a Muslim, but her husband was not agreeing to a divorce.
“This chatting I have done to play around with Salman,” she said in her interrogation report, whose copy is also with The Indian Express. According to her, Salman and she knew about each other’s marital status and their children, and that they were in regular touch “till 2010”.
The radicalisation: Hearing al-Baghdadi
“I am religious, and during June 2014, after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (the IS chief) declared Caliphate, I observed the posts released by Al Hayat — a media centre of ISIS — and was attracted towards ISIS as I was facing indiscrimination (sic) in USA. I learnt more about the Caliphate, ISIS and made research over ISIS by browsing Net,” Mohiuddin told interrogators.
In 2012, Mohiuddin had started his first pro-jihadi Facebook group, ‘Revalations and Hadith’. The second, ‘Daula Islamia’, followed in mid-August 2014.
Mohiuddin said that on Daula Islamia, he “used to post ISIS updates and other relevant information with intention to attract youth”. The page was later blocked by Facebook for its posts related to the IS.
In October 2014, Mohiuddin was forced to return to Hyderabad as his US visa was not extended.
The Syria plans: Time on hand
Back home, he found himself out of work, and engaged in hours of discussions on IS-related developments on the Net. In November 2014, he created two more pro-jihadi Facebook groups, ‘Moderators vs Liberals’ and ‘Daula Newsroom’. “I was active in posting of ISIS posts in Daula Newsroom and used to ask maximum number of people about their plan to join ISIS,” Mohiuddin told interrogators.
Jabeen as Joseph was an administrator in each of these groups, while Mohiuddin’s wife was an administrator in Revelations and Hadith. Mohiuddin said they discussed Quran and Hadeeth in this group.
Daula Newsroom also had a Dubai-based man from Kerala, an Afghan, two youths from Delhi and Bangalore, and a young woman from Mumbai as administrators. Jabeen was an administrator too, posing as Sana Ahmed of Delhi.
Moderators vs Liberals had 2,500 followers and Daula Newsroom 188 when Mohiuddin was arrested.
About his interactions with IS supporters, Mohiuddin said, “I observed negative propaganda by Western media towards ISIS that one of the IS militants married (a) 6 years old girl and (of) killing innocent people etc. In this regard, I started to chat with Abu Muhajeer of Syria/Egypt, Abu Al Barra of Iraq who is doing aid work for IS, Hasan Abdul Gani of Iraq, and Abu Muhammod of Iraq, adding them (to) my friends’ list.”
Mohiuddin said it was during chats with “Abu al Barra al Sami, an IS sympathiser based in Syria, and Abu Mohammad of Turkey, a facilitator with links to IS” that he started giving serious thought to entering Syria from Turkey to become a fighter with the IS.
He said Abu Mohammad gave him two Skype IDs — Abdulla_Jihadi and Abu Muhaajir — and said that if he visited Turkey, they would “receive” him. In turn, Mohiuddin told interrogators, he shared his Skype id, ‘Sa1mann’.
On January 16, 2015, Mohiuddin was arrested at Hyderabad international airport while on his way to Dubai, from where he allegedly planned to go to Syria.
Police were acting on a tip-off from US intelligence, that had been monitoring Mohiuddin’s online activities.