In what could be a first for a terror probe in the country, the father of a youth arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for alleged links to the Islamic State (IS) has given a statement before a magistrate corroborating how his son was drawn to jihadist ideology. The statement under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) will be used as evidence against the son.
Sources told The Sunday Express that after Mohammed Naseer, a 23-year-old computer engineer from Tamil Nadu, was deported to India from Sudan on December 10 last year, his father flew down from Dubai and met NIA officials. He later gave a Section 164 CrPC statement about how he was concerned when his son began displaying “odd and suspicious” behaviour, sources said. A statement under Section 164 can be used as evidence in court.
According to the NIA, Naseer was deported from Sudan while attempting to head to Libya to join the Islamic State. He allegedly stayed at a safe house in Khartoum from September 25, 2015, till October 5, 2015, and even went through a preliminary IS training course. After Indian agencies informed the Sudan government about Naseer, the information was verified by local authorities and he was detained on October 5.
“The case against Naseer has been bolstered with a 164 CrPC statement given by his father Mohammed Pakeer, a mechanic based in Dubai. Pakeer has corroborated Naseer’s jihadi links, and has revealed how his son (took) the wrong path. In the statement, Pakeer has revealed how Naseer’s behaviour turned suspicious, and how he was drawn to reading jehadi literature,” a source said.
Hailing from Thanjavur, Naseer did computer engineering at MNM Engineering College in Chennai between 2010 and 2014. It was during this period that Naseer and a couple of his friends started visiting a mosque in Chennai run by the Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamath, a non-political Islamic organisation that preaches a puritanical version of Islam. It was founded by P Jainul Abdeen in 2004, when he broke away from the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam.
Naseer attended around 30 to 40 lectures on religious discourse by Jainul Abdeen. He also began to pore over the website onlinepj.com dealing with Islamic discourse, he has allegedly told interrogators.
After coming into contact with some Nigerians who were allegedly proficient in hacking, Naseer attended a three-month certified ethical hacking course in an institute in Chennai, for which he paid a fee of Rs 50,000. Aspiring to become an expert in computer operating system Linux, Naseer also approached a software expert, popularly called ‘Linux Bhaskaran’, who coached him between November 2013 and April 2014. Naseer then set up two websites — http://www.lptw.in and http://www.mohammedmedia.in — both of which reportedly failed to attract many followers.
Concerned about his future when Naseer failed to pass two supplementary examinations in his engineering college, his father called him there, sending a visa valid for 90 days in October 2014. Since his father was staying with some colleagues, he reportedly rented a separate room for Naseer.
Investigators say Naseer found it hard to get an IT job in Dubai as he had failed to finish his computer engineering course. Finally, in December 2014, he was employed by a firm in Deira, Dubai, as a web developer and graphic designer. Since by that time his visa was expiring and he had to return, the firm allowed him to work from India.
He returned to Dubai in May 2015 after getting an employment visa.
Officials say Naseer was paid 2,500 Dirhams a month, but was unhappy with his job. It was after work, during his free time in the evenings, that he allegedly began listening to lectures by Islamic scholars and controversial preachers such as Anjem Choudary on the Internet, and watching Islamic State propaganda videos.
On Twitter, he allegedly came in contact with a suspected IS supporter using the name ‘Dawlah’. This supporter is said to have helped him join three pro-IS WhatsApp groups.
One of these groups was ‘Islam Q&A’, run by a woman called Karen Aisha Hamidon, who claimed she was from Manila in the Philippines. The other members of this group were Mohammed Sirajuddin, who was arrested by the Rajasthan ATS in Jaipur on December 10, a Sharjah resident named Yusha Kashmiri and an Indian named Salman Munabbar.
Investigators claim that in August 2015, Naseer began communicating on Twitter with ‘Mad Mullah’, an IS propagandist whose profile message was, “for Hijrah (migration) to Libya, for advice”.
Naseer allegedly expressed the desire to go to Syria, and Mad Mullah told him that due to heavy security on most routes to Syria and its border, the only option available was through Sudan. Mad Max is said to have promised Naseer accommodation, a job and food in Sudan, and encouraged him to travel on to Libya, saying he would be the first Indian IS fighter to do so.
Naseer has reportedly told interrogators that he managed to secretly remove his passport from the custody of his employers, and that a visa for Sudan was e-mailed to him by Mad Mullah. He travelled from Dubai to Sudan on September 25 on a Flydubai flight, after reportedly deleting all his IS-related e-mails, WhatsApp and Telegram accounts.
Reaching Khartoum the same day, Naseer made his way to a flat that reportedly acted as an IS safe house. He is said to have told officials that two Egyptians and a Russian, Moroccan and Belgian, all in their early 20s, were already staying at the flat. He was still at the flat when he was detained.
The NIA has also secured three 164 CrPC statements as evidence against alleged members of local IS affiliate Junud ul Khilafa e Hind busted in December 2015, including from software entrepreneur Muhammad Abdul Ahad from Bengaluru, who was deported in January 2015 from Turkey for attempting to cross over to Syria to join the IS.