Anwer Bhatkal, whose “martyrdom” in Afghanistan was announced by terrorist group Ansar ul-Tawhid ul-Hind last week, was among six persons from the coastal town of Bhatkal in Karnataka reported to be training in the Af-Pak region over the last one year, according to security agencies. Among these, two brothers — Abdul Khader Sultan Armar, 38, and Shafi Armar, in his late twenties — have emerged as key figures.
As reported by The Indian Express, Ansar ul-Tawhid, an al Qaeda linked offshoot of the Indian Mujahideen (IM), tweeted on Friday that Anwer Bhatkal had been martyred, which would make him the first fatality among one of several Indians known to be training with insurgents in Afghanistan.
Following his arrest in August last year, key IM operative Yasin Bhatkal is reported to have told investigators that six men from Bhatkal — Anwer Bhatkal, Abdul Khader Sultan Armar, Shafi Armar, Hussain Farhan Mohammed, Salim Ishaqi and Afeef Mota — were being trained in terrorist activities in the Waziristan region on the Af-Pak border. Subsequently, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) last year named all the six men in a terrorism conspiracy case.
Sultan Armar, sources said, was named as a “leader” of an offshoot of the Ansar ul-Tawhid which has been involved in attempting to recruit young Indian Muslims for terrorist activities. Sources said a video posted by al Isabah, the media unit of the Ansar ul-Tawhid, of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi declaring an Islamic caliphate, had Urdu messages stating that Sultan Armar, who is a maulana, had been declared an amir.
Sultan Armar’s role as a recruiter for terrorist operations emerged recently following the arrest of three youths in Rajasthan on March 23 — Mohammed Mahruf, 21, Mohammed Waqar Azhar alias Haneef, 21, both engineering students and residents of Jaipur, and Shaquib Ansari alias Khalid, 25, a DTP business operator and resident of Jodhpur — for IM links.
Investigations revealed that it was Sultan Armar who recruited the three youths after evaluating them on Facebook. Sources said Sultan Armar identified himself as Mohammed Atta on Facebook and established a connection with the trio before IM operative Tehseen Akhtar alias Monu, who was later arrested, met them and cleared their recruitment.
An Interpol Red Corner Notice has been issued for Sultan Armar for his terror links, including the recruitment of youth for terrorist activities.
The Armar brothers are the second set of siblings from Bhatkal to emerge as central figures in terrorist activities, after the Shahbandari brothers, Iqbal and Riyaz, who created a loose coalition of radical forces called the IM to carry out terror attacks in India since 2006. Sources said the Armar brothers have been living outside India for the past six to eight years.
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