MAHARASHTRA Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief Vivek Phansalkar on Sunday said that the Islamic State (IS) has spread its influence in Maharashtra and as one of the many counter measures, police have till now blocked as many as 94 websites which were linked to the IS. ATS, he said, would soon launch its own website.
Phansalkar was speaking to reporters in the background of arrests of several youths linked to the IS. The arrests were made by the ATS and also by other agencies in the country in past couple of days.
We’re monitoring websites or social media sites,any website used to propagate ISIS agenda are being blocked-Maha ATS pic.twitter.com/DF9QpS97YZ
— ANI (@ANI_news) January 24, 2016
94 websites used to radicalise people online have been blocked, says Maharashtra ATS Chief Vivek Phansalkar.
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Phansalkar said, “If we take a stock of the cases in which arrests have been made by us and other agencies, I have to say that the IS has spread its influence in Maharashtra just like in 10 to 12 other states. The agencies, at all the levels, have taken it very seriously. There is a systematic propoganda that is being carried and like the way consumers are attracted to the advertisements, these youths are being lured to follow the fundamentalist agenda.”
When asked specifically about the influence of IS in Pune, Phansalkar, “Yes, it is growing in Pune…” Asked about the areas in Pune where IS is spreading its tentacles, Phansalkar refused to comment. He added, “Majority of this radicalisation of the youths is happening online and we have felt an urgent need to initiate counter-measures. ATS will soon be launching its website and attempt will be made to effectively use the social media to propagate our counter-narrative. We have till now blocked 94 websites, which were largely linked to the IS and its line of thoughts.” The request to block these websites were made by ATS and other units of Maharashtra police.
Phansalkar said, the ATS is handling these cases in four stages – Identify, Monitor, Counter and Disrupt. Explaining the difference in cases in which ATS chose to de-radicalise the youths and others in which arrests were made, Phansalkar said, “In the cases in which we had concrete leads that law had been transgressed, we made the arrest. In the cases in which these youths were about to transgress the law, we chose not to arrest and attempt to deradicalise them.” Phansalkar said that there is a constant exchange of information between various state and national agencies and several cases were being monitored simultaneously based on these inputs. He also added that heads of schools, colleges and religious institutions were being roped in for creating awareness among youths and also to keep close watch on any suspicious cases.
In the third week of December last year, Pune ATS had brought to light a case in which a 16-year-old girl from a well-to-do Muslim family had come in touch with IS operatives and had prepared to leave for Syria. Police had started councelling her in an attempt to de-radicalise her.