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2 NRI brothers indicted in US for funding al-Qaeda, had discussed attacks in India

The two Indians have been identified as Yahya Farooq Mohammad, 37, and his brother Ibrahim Zubair Mohammad, 36, while the other two are Asif Ahmed Salim, 35, and his brother Sultane Room Salim, 40.

Written by Praveen Swami | Washington | Updated: November 7, 2015 11:02:22 am
al qaeda, indian al qaeda, al qaeda india, india news, al qaeda news, Indians Al Qaeda, Indians in Al Qaeda, Anwar al-Awlaki

Two Indian brothers charged with providing support to al-Qaeda had discussed ideas for an Islamist insurgency in India, documents filed by United States prosecutors show.

Hyderabad-born Yahya Farooq Mohammad and Ibrahim Zubair Mohammad were indicted by a grand jury on Friday for allegedly providing and raising funds through credit card fraud for slain jihadist ideologue and commander Anwar al-Awlaki.

In an e-mail sent by Farooq to Zubair on January 31, 2005, Yahya wrote: “The Muslims there (in India) are our brothers. The non-Muslims our enemies. We do dawah (proselytise) to them in the best manner. But if they refuse, and when we have the capability, we offer them to live as dhimmis (non-Muslims under the protection of Muslim law) or else face the sword.”

“We will never have a subservient attitude for them,” the e-mail says.  “There is a time for dawah, and a time for jihad.”

The men also exchanged jihadist literature produced by al-Qaeda — among it, an interview with slain Pakistani Taliban commander Muhammad Illyas Kashmiri, hailing the 26/11 attack in Mumbai.

India’s intelligence officials, government sources said, were informed four weeks ago that Farooq might seek to flee to this country, ahead of the indictment. However, no details were provided on his passport details, origin or possible activities in India.

“FBI had these men under surveillance for a length of time”, a senior official said, “but told us nothing about it. The prospect that they might have funded jihadists in India is a matter of great concern”.

Farooq has lived in the United Arab Emirates since 2006, first working for Advanced Technologies ME, and then information technology giant Schlumberger, where he was working as a project manager.

He studied engineering at Osmania University in Hyderabad from 1995 to 1999, before moving to Louisiana State University for further study. In 2002, he obtained a Master’s degree in electrical engineering from Ohio State University.

In a recommendation posted online, a colleague described him as “a really organised person who can handle any stressful situation without showing it”.

His brother, Zubair, also studied engineering at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 2001 to 2005, before moving to Toledo.  He is believed to be married to a United States citizen.

In a January 30, 2008 e-mail, the two brothers discussed an academic paper, which showed engineers were statistically over-represented among  Islamist terror groups.

“Away from the world of glowing pixels and dissertations on Proust there’s another world of people who know how to do stuff”, Farooq wrote. “If you want electric light, sewers, drinking water, cheap travel or X-rays, ask an engineer. If you want something knocked down or blown up, ask an engineer”.

The brothers are both Indian citizens.  Zubair is married to a US citizen of Indian origin, but chose not to seek citizenship there, since in their view the country was at war with Islam. Their co-conspirators, Asif Salim and Sultane Salim, are both United States nationals.

Large parts of the group’s ideological motivation seems to have been shaped by material they encountered online. “Let them spill my blood for it to flow on earth”, the lyrics of a jihadist anthem they shared read, “it will erupt like a volcano and burn like coals”.

“I am a terrorist, reads another, “I terrorise the enemies of the (Faith) … Allah the Master the Almighty has ordered Jihad against the immoral ones” Farooq, the FBI alleges, travelled to Yemen from July 23, 2009 to July 26, 2009, hoping to meet al-Awlaki at a village in the country’s south.  They were, the indictment states “unable to personally meet with Awlaki due to the presence of Yemeni government soldiers in the village”.

However, Farooq was given instructions to meet one of al-Awlaki’s aides in Sanaa to whom he handed over $22,000. Investigators, the indictment states, found the money obtained by routing cash from fraudulently obtained credit cards into a PayPal account – hoping they could avoid repayment.

The men discussed the religious ethics of their plan to defraud the banks.  “Taking a loan from a nation that is at war with Islam and having no intention of repaying it or the interest on it is allowed and even commendable as an act of war to weaken the enemy”, Farooq wrote on September 12, 2010.

Zubair later added some practical advice: “Apparently, if you have an unsecured loan like credit cards, then the creditor can go to court to obtain a means of retrieving their money. Just wanted to give you the heads up. Maybe it’s best not to keep much money in your account”.

Anwar al-Awlaki, killed in a September 30, 2011 drone strike, was arguably al-Qaeda’s most important ideologue in the West — the force behind a welter of online platforms, and the author of influential publications reaching out to jihad volunteers in Europe and the United States, like Inspire magazine, and 44 Ways of Doing Jihad.

Born to Yemeni-origin parents in 1971, al-Awlaki earned an engineering degree from Colorado State University.  He demonstrated an early interest in Islamism, visiting Afghanistan in the course of the anti-Soviet Union jihad.  Al-Awlaki, though, was seen as a moderate — serving as a chaplain at George Washington University, and delivering lectures on the religion which were attended by, among others, former FBI counter-intelligence director Gordon Snow.

Following 9/11, though, al-Awlaki was discovered to have lectured three of the al-Qaeda hijackers. He later left the United States, and after a brief tenure in the United Kingdom, settled in Yemen in 2004.

He was later alleged to have motivated a number of terror plots, including the 2005 London suicide bombings, the 2009 Little Rock military recruiting office shooting, the 2010 Times bombings, and a plot to blow up a transatlantic flight over Detroit.

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