On United Nations list, India gives homegrown terrorists a miss

The Indian government, UN sources said, has also not shared information on the 62 individuals its intelligence services now believe have left the country to fight with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Written by Praveen Swami | New Delhi | Updated: August 19, 2016 7:11 am
Shafi Armar, Riyaz Bhatkal not on list Shafi Armar, Riyaz Bhatkal not on list

The Indian government has not taken measures to seek United Nations sanctions against homegrown terrorists linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State, diplomatic sources in the UN have told The Indian Express.

The revelations come even as the United Nations 1267 Committee’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, which tracks action against Islamic State and al-Qaeda, released its latest report to member-states on Thursday.

Indian citizens operating against the country from overseas, including Pakistan-based al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent chief Sanaul Haq, also known as Asim Umar, and Shafi Armar, who has led Islamic State operations targeting his homeland, do not figure on the 1267 Committee’s list of individuals subjected to travel and financial bans, the document shows. Neither does Riyaz Shahbandri, the Karachi-based head of Indian Mujahideen, who Indian investigators have said met with top al-Qaeda leaders in 2013 ahead of the merger of the two organisations.

Earlier this year, India had protested after China blocked its efforts to have Masood Azhar Alvi, the head of Jaish-e-Muhammad, listed by the 1267 Committee. There was no word from New Delhi, though, on why it had failed to pursue action in cases of Indian citizens, where third countries were unlikely to be seek a veto.

The Ministry of External Affairs declined official comment, but a senior official confirmed it had not moved to seek the listing of Indian citizens linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State, saying it had it had not received any request from the Ministry of Home Affairs to do so. “We do not make policies on counter-terrorism issues,” the official said. “We only execute requests that come to us from the home ministry.”

Home ministry officials also declined to comment on record, but said there was no government policy on seeking sanctions against Indian citizens linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State. “This is a relatively new situation,” said an official familiar with the situation, “and there isn’t yet a mechanism in place to deal with it.”

Experts disagreed, saying the problem is an old one which stems from the absence of any Indian government agency with overall responsibility for counter-terrorism. “The responsibility is divided between the MHA, the MEA, and a half-a-dozen investigation agencies, with the result that India has consistently failed to use international fora to build its case against terrorism,” said Ajai Sahni, Director of the Institute of Conflict Management in New Delhi.

The 1267 Committee’s report makes clear that none of al-Qaeda’s subcontinental leadership has been listed, though they have been charged by Indian investigators with involvement in several plots against India. Top leaders Asim Umar, Usama Mehmood, Umar Khattab and Umair Afzal Rana are all not listed, the document states. It adds that the “group consists mainly of militants from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Maldives. Member States assess that the number of Al-Qaida operatives in Afghanistan with ties to Al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent could be as high as 300.”

The Indian government, UN sources said, has also not shared information on the 62 individuals its intelligence services now believe have left the country to fight with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Bangladesh and India have also not sought listing of Canadian national Tamim Chaudhury who, using the pseudonym Abu Ibrahim al-Hanif, has led Islamic State’s campaign in the region. In an interview to the IS house-magazine Dabiq, Chaudhury had said he was working to set up a “jihad base in Bengal (which) will facilitate performing guerrilla attacks inside India”.

Sources said India was not among the 20 member states which had, until July 2016, provided implementation reports on their action on Resolution 2253 — an agreement passed last year, calling on all states to freeze assets used to fund IS and prevent individuals from transiting through the country to territories held by IS and al-Qaeda.

The report underlines the growing threat of the Islamic State to countries elsewhere in the world even as the territories under its control diminish, saying it has “provided start-up capital to some of its affiliates and been able to move funds using cash couriers, alternative remittance systems and banking channels”.

The threat, it records, “has become more decentralised, thereby giving the group more opportunities to fund affiliates, cells and attacks around the world”.

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