Guidance given to a foreign fighter on how to cross from Turkey to Syria to join the Islamic State’s (IS) war in Syria and Iraq via Twitter has emerged as key evidence against West Bengal youth Mehdi Masroor Biswas (24), who was arrested by the Bangalore police last month for operating pro-IS Twitter account @ShamiWitness.
Investigations since his arrest on December 13 have revealed that he was consulted about possible routes to entry Syria from Turkey by an IS fighter based in Syria. The query was posed by the IS fighter on behalf of a French and English speaking fighter with the Twitter handle @TalabAlHaqq, who according to his tweet trail had been waiting on the border since June 19, 2014 for information on how to enter Syria.
On June 23, @shamiwitness tweeted to @TalabAlHaqq stating “Tal Abyad crossing open now” while also marking the tweet to a Twitter handle @onthatpath3 and @AbuUmar8246. This tweet from @shamiwitness at the instance of an IS fighter @onthatpath3 — suspected to be an American of Somali origin with the nom de guerre Ibn Zubayr — is set to be placed in court as key evidence against Biswas.
Biswas has been booked under section 125 of the Indian Penal Code for “waging war against any Asiatic power in alliance with the Government of India’’ — an offence with a maximum punishment of seven years imprisonment. Biswas has also been booked under section 39 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 2004, for supporting a terrorist organisation and section 66 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 for the misuse of computers.
“An IS fighter in Syria contacted Mehdi on behalf of a fighter waiting to enter Syria… Mehdi provided the information and also marked tweets to the IS fighter about the open routes. This is key evidence in the case,’’ police sources said.
According to the tweet trail, @TalabAlHaqq contacted seven to eight persons including @onthatpath3 via Twitter from June 19, 2014 seeking information on how to cross into Syria from Turkey. On June 23, he tweets a message to @onthatpath3 and @AbuUmar8246 asking – “how can a mihajir stuck in southeastern turkey get help crossing through to raqqa in sha allah??”
According to the Bangalore police, the IS fighter with the twitter handle @onthatpath3 sought the assistance of @ShamiWitness who within two hours tweeted about the Tal Abyad crossing being open on the Turkey-Syria border. @TalabAlHaqq, waiting to cross into Syria, then tweets to @ShamiWitness @AbuUmar8246 and @onthatpath3 — “Assalam aleykom, ShamiWitness could you please clarify how long will it be open?’’ to which @ShamiWitness responded by indicating that other crossing like “Jarabulus etc” could also be open.
The IS fighter with the Twitter handle @onthatpath3, who interfaced between @ShamiWitness and @TalabAlHaqq, has claimed on Twitter to be a Somali American fighter Ibn Zubayr who was featured in a CBS News interview from Syria. It is unclear if @TalabAlHaqq gained entry into Syria but there are no tweets on his predicament after June 23.