Inestigations in Jaipur and Hyderabad into recent attempts by global jihadi outfits to recruit Indian youths has revealed the presence of at least two Indian-origin recruiters on the Internet luring youths on behalf of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS or IS) and al-Qaeda, and working in collaboration with each other.
Former Bhatkal native Abdul Khader Sultan Armar, 38, who is believed to be currently based on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and associated with the Ansar ul-Tawhid ul-Hind has emerged as a common al-Qaeda-linked recruiter in both the Jaipur and Hyderabad investigations.
Besides, a former SIMI man from Karnataka currently said to be based in the Gulf region has been identified as a recruiter for the ISIS and as the one who recently attempted to recruit four Hyderabad youths via the Internet. Sources said he has been found to be in touch online with several youths from India.
The discovery of the two Indian-origin recruiters was confirmed by sources in multiple agencies involved in tracking terrorism. It was Armar who recently made a call to Indians to join global jihad in an Ansar ul-Tawhid online video. Armar is wanted in India and has an Interpol Red Corner Notice against his name in connection with a grand terrorism conspiracy case booked against him and other members of the Indian Mujahideen outfit by the National Investigation Agency.
However, the alleged IS recruiter has not been named in any recent case in India. His name had featured in investigations into activities of the banned SIMI in Karnataka in 2007, but he had not been booked, sources said.
“The emergence of a former SIMI-linked man from Karnataka in the Hyderabad probe into recruitments for the IS is a concern. It is being examined,” a senior Karnataka Police official said.
In the Hyderabad case, the four youths, all engineering students in their early 20s, were detained in West Bengal allegedly in the process of leaving India to join the ISIS.
The Jaipur case involved three youths — 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 a resident of Jodhpur — who were arrested on March 23 for alleged terror links.
Investigations following the arrest of the three revealed that they were allegedly lured into taking up jihad by Sultan Armar, who first established contact with them on Facebook via a fake identity, before drawing them into password-protected forums for further discussions including video chat.
The three Rajasthan youths were reportedly then put in touch with alleged Indian Mujahideen operative Tehseen Akhtar alias Monu. It was Akhtar’s arrest that led investigating agencies to them.
Investigators allege that the four Hyderabad youths were initially handled online by the Karnataka-origin ex-SIMI man based in the Gulf.
According to officials, six youths from Hyderabad were first contacted online and “brainwashed” on encrypted discussion forums into signing up for the ISIS. Visas were to be arranged for their travel via Istanbul, sources said. Two of the youths reportedly dropped out after their parents got wind of their sons’ plans.
Later, a person who was to arrange visas to Turkey for the youths backed out, triggering panic among the remaining four too. According to sources, the four youths then went into hiding in Karimnagar district of Telangana and contacted the ISIS recruiter again to find out what to do. The former Karnataka SIMI man allegedly asked them to get in touch with Armar.
Officials say the four spoke to Armar via Skype, and that he appeared without a mask — unlike in his Ansar ul-Tawhid videos.
Armar allegedly directed the four Hyderabad youths to go to West Bengal, assuring them that they would be taken to Dhaka, and further from there by his associates.
The four youths were, however, caught in the Malda region of West Bengal by the Hyderabad police before they could cross over to Bangladesh. They were brought back to Hyderabad and handed over to their parents. No case was booked against the youths and their names were not publicised in an effort to instill confidence among families to report youths misled by jihadist recruiters.