From Kalyan, Mumbai
Arrested on return from Turkey, on Nov 28, 2014
“If you go back to India, there is only one place you are going, jail,” the ‘ameer’ told Areeb Majeed. “I replied, ‘I know, but one day I will meet my family’.”
As per Majeed’s statement to interrogators, this is all he had to tell Abu Hammam Iraqi, chief of the Islamic State’s Tasnia or Ministry of Defence and Development in Raqqah, Syria, to be allowed to return home. The date was November 21, 2014, six months after he and three other youths left Kalyan, Mumbai, to fight alongside the IS, becoming among the first Indians to do so.
Majeed is currently in judicial custody in Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail, making him the only Indian in custody to have fought with the IS. In his interrogation report, running into 76 pages, the 24-year-old talks about what drove him to the outfit, how he financed his travel to Syria, and his time as a suicide bomber for the IS.
He has been charged under IPC Section 125 for waging war against an Asiatic Power In Alliance With the Government of India.
The Indian Express was the first to report about Majeed, Shaikh and two other Kalyan youths, Saheem Tanki and Aman Tandel, joining the IS. While Majeed returned home in November last year and Tanki is believed to be dead, Shaikh and Tandel remain missing.
The influence: Owaisi and others
When the Bazarpeth police in Kalyan, Mumbai, were called upon to quell a protest by Ahl-e-Hadith followers on January 1, 2014, it was their first encounter with Majeed and Shaikh, both engineering students with an inclination towards the more puritanical sect of Islam.
The dispute was over the playing of Bollywood songs during Eid-e-Milad-Un-Nabi. “The playing (of) music is prohibited as per the… Hadith,” Majeed told his interrogators.
“In 2014, the Eid-e-Milad-Un-Nabi was on 14/01/2014… We (knew) the Barelvi sect will definitely play a mischief, and I along with many followers of Ahl-e-Hadith were gathered outside the Kotbahar Masjid. When the procession proceeded, (the) organiser played Bollywood songs… Fahad went to the extent of pulling down the mike from the vehicle… I was very impressed,” Majeed said.
By then, Majeed had already been drawn to IS propaganda sites, and expressed interest in travelling to Syria while chatting with contacts in Australia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and America.
Majeed told officials controversial AIMIM leader Akbaruddin Owaisi was one of the 10 speakers whose videos and lectures he would see. “I used to listen to every speech of his.”
The others included Saudia Arabia theologian Muhammed Al Arifi, Mohammed Hoblos from Australia, Imran Hosein, Australian preacher Musa Cerontonio, Abu Waleed, controversial preacher Anjem Chaudhary, Pakistani-born Tauseef ur Rahman, and Shaikh Abdullah Azzam.
Majeed also downloaded e-books as well as the I-Quran mobile application. These e-books, videos and lectures “had a great impact on me in developing my jihadi mindset”, Majeed said.
The departure: Western Union, Facebook
On May 23, 2014, the four Kalyan youths flew to Baghdad as part of a group of 22 pilgrims intending to visit religious shrines in Iraq. They pooled in money and paid Rs 2.4 lakh in three instalments to a tour operator in Mumbai’s Byculla area, Majeed said.
Later, Afghan businessman Rehman Daulati and a Kuwaiti contact wired $US 1,000 to him through Western Union Money Transfer in Baghdad, Majeed said.
A “Facebook contact” and resident of Syria, Tahira Bhatt, reportedly helped them enter Syria. He also named Abu Fatima and Ali as contacts in Iraq, while Sayfulla Timayare alias Abu Falluja from Turkey was a “facilitator” for those wanting to join the IS.
According to Majeed, he and his friends received their ‘Tazkiya’ or recommendation to join the IS directly from Umar Shishani, the outfit’s dreaded Chechen military commander of Iraq and Syria.
The combat: Isteshaadi, Ighimasi
After he had made his way to Iraq, Majeed said, they stayed 10-12 days on the outskirts of Mosul at Jazira, where around mid-June 2014, he was given the nom de guerre Abu Ali al Hindi.
There were three rounds of training sessions, lasting more than a month.
Around August 22 last year, Majeed said, he was informed by the ‘ameer’ of the IS’s fidayeen squad that his turn had come. “There was a fight … for conquering Mosul dam, so I participated in it as an isteshaadi i.e. suicide bomber, with 2.5 tonnes of explosives in a civilian van. Mosul dam was surrounded by Kurdish army… I would blow up the explosives-laden car.”
However, the van was bombed in an airstrike.
“Next day, I came to Tel Afar city to receive training as ighimasi, which means fighting with as many weapons and ammunitions (as) one can, and when the ammunitions are over, (to) move towards the enemy and blow up with the help of (an) explosive belt. After three days, I along with other 11 ighimasi returned to Mosul dam battle. Each of us was provided with Russian AK-47, Dragunov sniper rifle, PKC machine gun, RPG, 1000 rounds of PKC, 300 rounds of AK-47, four hand grenades, Glock 19, 50 cartridges of .9mm, platinum knife,” Majeed said.
The fight began at 5 am and around 5 pm, Majeed said, he was shot for the first time. Unconscious for about two hours, he was taken for dead.
For eight days, Majeed was at a hospital in Tel Afar, over 65 km from Mosul. “On the ninth day, I went for another martyrdom operation in Zammar near Kurdistan (with a) car laden with 3 tonnes of explosives. I stayed there for almost 20 days… But the enemy never attacked,” he told interrogators.
Majeed then moved to Kirkafir, an hour’s drive from Zammar. “There I waited for 15 days with the same car full of explosives, but the Kurdish army attacked Rabea and I was asked to move to Rabea… But they retreated knowing that I was isteshadi and they started firing towards my car, in which I was injured for the second time.”
Majeed drove back to the IS camp and received primary treatment. The next day, he moved to Talal Huwa, 15 minutes from Rabea.
“My car was repaired and on the 7th day, the Kurdish army attacked us. My leader Abu Sadik, who was a local guy, ran away with 10 soldiers, leaving the other 13 of us. I moved towards the Kurdish army but (they were) continuously firing. My car was damaged. I got down and fought along with the 12 associates till our ammunitions were over. Then we waited for death,” Majeed told interrogators.
Finally, after they had received word from Sadik, the group retreated.
The return: A Skype call
Around this time, Majeed said, he contacted his sister on Skype. He was working in Raqqah in the IS’s civil engineering department at the time.
“This was the first time the family came to know I was alive. Thereafter, I kept talking with my family every other day and they used to just say, ‘Tumko jo chahiye tha, tumne kar liya, ab apne maa-baap aur bhai-behen ke liye wapas aa jao (You have done what you wanted, now come back for your parents and siblings)’,” Majeed told officials.
“I missed my sister’s wedding and this was again very hurting for me. Thereafter, I felt my parents were right… I was content that I did everything I can and now, I would like to return,” Majeed told interrogators.
Majeed said he met the ‘ameer of Tasnia’, Abu Hammam and requested official permission on grounds of medical and family problems to return home. He was granted permission three days later, he said.
Majeed told officials he made his way through Jarabulus in Syria to Gaziantep and Istanbul in Turkey, and flew to Mumbai on November 27, 2014.
At 5.30 am the next day, he landed and was taken into custody.