A suspected Islamic State (IS) recruit from Tamil Nadu, arrested recently by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for allegedly having fought alongside the outfit in Iraq, has told the agency that he had met two French operatives who were later found to have participated in the November 2015 Paris attacks.
Subahani Haja Moideen, a resident of Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu, had spent a few months in Mosul after having left India in April 2015. He has now told NIA sleuths that he knew the Paris bombers, Abdelhamid Abaaoud and Salah Abdeslam.
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“In Mosul, he was put in a group which also had these two individuals. He knew them only by their pseudonyms which carried the suffix al-Francisi. However, when he was shown the photographs of the attackers, he recognised them,” an NIA officer said.
The Paris attack inside a theatre last November had left over 100 people dead. Moideen, however, has said that he had no clue about the plot then and had returned to India by the time the attacks took place. He learned of the attack through news channels.
While Abaaoud was killed in retaliatory fire during the Paris theatre attack in November last year, Abdelslam is in the custody of the French police.
Moideen was arrested from Tamil Nadu in a crackdown by the NIA with the help of central security agencies and other state police, foiling designs of IS operatives to target some judges of Kerala and foreign tourists visiting the coastal state.
The NIA has informed the French security officials and contacted its embassy here, sources said. They said that French officials could question him as well after getting the requisite court order.
Moideen was allegedly radicalised and recruited in the IS through social media platforms and he had left India for Istanbul from Chennai in April last year on the pretext of performing ‘Umrah’, sources said.
After reaching Istanbul, he crossed over along with other people who hailed from Pakistan and Afghanistan to Iraqi territory under control of IS.
Moideen was in Iraq from April 8, 2015 from where he was taken to Mosul and underwent detailed ‘religious training’ followed by combat training. After this, he was reportedly deputed to fight for almost two weeks.
During the war, he told interrogators that he was paid US $100 per month as an allowance by IS besides being given accommodation and food.
However, Moideen told interrogators that he could not withstand the violence and war misery in Mosul and decided to leave especially after he saw two of his friends getting killed.
He was jailed by IS and produced before an Islamic judge who sent him to Syria. He claimed that he was allowed to cross over to Turkey from where he contacted his family with the help of the Indian consulate in Istanbul. He arrived in Mumbai after a gap of six months in September last year on an emergency certificate and returned to his ancestral place. He later managed to get a job at a jewellery shop at Kadayanallur in Tamil Nadu.