Terrorist group Ansar ul-Tawhid ul-Hind released a Twitter message today paying homage to a member it said had been killed in fighting in Afghanistan — a claim which, if true, would mark the first fatality among one of several Indians known to be training with insurgents in the war-torn country.
The Ansar ul-Tawhid message, issued by its media unit al Isabah media, said: “Anwer Bhatkal Juma 20 Ramzan Afghanistan me larte Huwe Shahadat pa gaye…Allah inki Shahadat ko Qubool farmaye.’’ (Fighting in Afghanistan, Anwer Bhatkal attained martyrdom on Friday, the 20th day of Ramzan…May Allah accept his martyrdom.)
Anwer Bhatkal has been identified by police sources as a distant relative of Indian Mujahideen founder Riyaz Bhatkal. The jihadist fighter had been an integral part of the IM’s activities in Dubai since 2008.
Anwer Bhatkal had been working for several years in Dubai as a car driver and was serving as a logistics person for the IM in Dubai till recently, sources said. He was identified by sources as Noor alias Anwer Bhatkal on the basis of a photograph that was tweeted along with an online message announcing his death today.
Estimated to be around 31-33 years of age, Anwer Bhatkal, police said, was frequently referred to as “driver’’ by IM cadre who used his services during their stay in Dubai. His name is mentioned in interrogation reports of key IM operative Yasin Bhatkal who was arrested in August last year on the Indo-Nepal border.
According to statements given to investigating agencies by Yasin Bhatkal, IM had been planning to launch Anwer Bhatkal as a suicide bomber in India prior to his arrest. Sources said an NIA court in Delhi issued a warrant for Anwer after he had been named in the NIA grand conspiracy case RC 6/2012 against absconding members of the Indian Mujahideen.
Sources said that Anwer Bhatkal sheltered IM founders Riyaz Bhatkal and Iqbal Bhatkal when they fled to the Gulf after a crackdown on the IM across India in 2008 and was constantly in their company, sources said.
Anwer Bhatkal has been identified as a co-brother of another wanted IM operative Abdul Wahid Siddibappa who was detained in Dubai in February on the basis of an Interpol Red Corner notice. He was also identified as a maternal cousin of Riyaz Bhatkal.
Sources said Anwer Bhatkal was not directly involved in any terrorist attacks in India. He, however, was the supplier of a laptop that a media module of the IM used extensively to create messages to go with bomb attacks in 2008 in the country, sources said.
Asghar Peerbhoy, an arrested IM operative from Pune, who was involved in hacking into wi-fi networks in Mumbai in 2008 to send messages accompanying IM bomb attacks used a laptop procured by Anwer Bhatkal, sources said. Peerbhoy, who was flying from the US to India via Dubai, was given the laptop in Dubai by Anwer, sources said.
Sources said that Anwer has his wife and his father living in Bhatkal but had distanced himself from them as he was intent on being “shaheed’’. Anwer was educated in an Urdu school in Bhatkal but did not pursue studies beyond school.
According to accounts provided to investigating agencies by arrested members of the Indian Mujahideen, like Yasin Bhatkal, a small breakaway faction from the IM, comprising of members like Bada Sajid and Dr Shahnawaz and a few others, have been fighting in Afghanistan.
Ansar ul-Tawhid has been the most active Indian jihadist group online posting videos of its cadre training in the borderlands between Pakistan’s North Waziristan region and southern Afghanistan. In recent weeks, the organisation released Tamil, Hindi and Urdu translations of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) chief Ibrahim Awwad al-Badri, laying claim to be caliph, or supreme ruler, of all Muslims.