A 25-year-old alleged Islamic State (IS) operative arrested in West Bengal last month has told interrogators that he had been instructed to behead a Hindu man and rape the man’s companion, make videos of both attacks, and send them to his handler across the border in Bangladesh.
The video of the beheading, the man is learnt to have told interrogators, was to have been then sent to the IS in Syria, to be released on the Internet by the communications wing of the terrorist organisation, along with a formal announcement of the establishment of the ‘caliphate’ in India.
While several videos of Indians professing allegiance to the IS, and calling upon Indian Muslims to join them have been released by IS sympathisers over the past few years, none of them has been shot in India. They also haven’t shown any violent act, let alone beheading, the signature propaganda tool of the IS.
During the Dhaka cafe attack recently, the attackers took pictures and made videos, which were later released by the IS’s official PR machine, the Amaq Agency. Like the several attacks in Bangladesh in recent times, the man who was arrested in West Bengal too was initially asked to carry out lone wolf attacks using a machete.
On July 6, based on information provided by the Intelligence Bureau and NIA, West Bengal Police apprehended Birbhum resident Masiuddin alias Abu al-Musa from Burdwan railway station. During interrogation by state police, intelligence agencies and NIA, Musa is learnt to have narrated the IS’s plan for a formal announcement of its arrival in India with a signature video of brutal murder.
Musa told interrogators his handler — who first identified himself as Jihadi John, the British Arab man seen in several IS beheading videos, but who was actually Mohammed Suleiman of the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) — had asked him to chose non-Muslim (kafir) targets, behead them, and record it.
Musa chose a businessman who lived in a farmhouse outside his village, Labhpur. Musa had earlier worked for the man on a borewell contract. “I knew there would be anywhere between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 6 lakh in his house, which I could use to further IS activities,” interrogators quoted Musa as having told them.
Musa’s interrogation has also revealed that he had intended to rape a woman who lived with the man, and make a video of that crime as well.
To execute his plans Musa allegedly recruited Sheikh Abbasuddin alias Amin and Saddam Hussain alias Sheikh Kalu. Both men have been arrested.
According to interrogators, the Bangladeshi handler, Suleiman, had asked Musa to send him these videos, which the IS would release with the announcement of its wing in India.
From dreams to jihad
According to interrogators, Musa, the son of an impoverished father, was the only one among five siblings to study. He married against the wishes of his family, but left his wife behind to travel to Kolkata, where he enrolled in an evening college, while working through the day. “He told us he hoped to become a clerk,” an interrogator said.
For a while, Musa did odd jobs as a waiter. However, within a year, his family began to pressure him to take his wife away. So Musa quit studies and moved to Tirupur in Tamil Nadu in 2010 and worked as watchman for some time. His elder brother was already in Tirupur then.
He came back to Birbhum for some time, only to go back to Tirupur for a job in a textile factory that paid him Rs 6,000 a month. Soon Musa got access to a smartphone and a computer. Once, while surfing the Net he “liked” the Facebook page of the Islamic State in Bangladesh.
Days later Musa, a follower of Deobandi Islam, was contacted by “Jihadi John” on Surespot, an encrypted chat messenger. Musa was aware of the name, the nom de guerre of the IS poster boy seen beheading “non-believers” in the outfit’s videos. Musa promptly responded, and thus began an online relationship.
“Jihadi John” allegedly encouraged Musa to read jihadi literature on jihadology.net, and to check the web sites of various terror organisations, in particular al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, his interrogation has revealed.
Around the same time, in 2014, Musa came in contact with Yusuf al-Hindi, an Internet figure who is suspected to be former Indian Mujahideen (IM) member Shafi Armar, now working with the IS.
By early 2015, Musa had tried his hand at running a shop, and had also been fired from his job. He returned to Birbhum after selling the goods in his shop, his interrogation reveals. Back in West Bengal, he had no job, but Rs 80,000 — and a purpose to “fulfill the ultimate goal for a Muslim: to establish a Caliphate”.
He had already applied for a passport to get to Syria. However, he soon lost contact with Yusuf, the interrogation shows.
In March last year, during the wedding of his younger brother in Birbhum, Musa met “Jihadi John”, who revealed himself to be Mohammed Suleiman of the JMB. Suleiman informed Musa that JMB had split on the issue of backing the IS, and sought Musa’s help to get a ration card. He also encouraged Musa to work for the IS in India, if he was not able to reach Syria, the interrogation has revealed.
On instructions from Suleiman, Musa came to Delhi in April 2016, and quickly moved to Srinagar. He had brought with him a machete from West Bengal. He had been instructed by Suleiman to look for foreign tourists and stab them or slit their throats, the interrogation reveals.
He lived in Srinagar for two months. “He went to the Dal lake several times. But he could never muster enough courage to kill anyone,” an interrogator said.
Finally, he returned to West Bengal and moved to Kolkata, but again could not take the final plunge. It was then that Suleiman instructed him to chose a softer target. And Musa chose the businessman he knew.