The National Investigation Agency (NIA) claims to have found evidence indicating that members of the Islamic State in Jammu and Kashmir (ISJK) may have links with operatives of the outfit in Afghanistan and some of them may even be getting directions from there. ISJK operatives were until now considered self-appointed with no links to the parent organisation.
During its probe into alleged IS recruits from Hyderabad and suspected ISJK members from Delhi, the NIA has apparently found that they were being handled by a man from Afghanistan.
Until now, the Home Ministry has brushed aside fears of the IS presence in Kashmir, especially its Afghanistan chapter. In June this year, after four militants were gunned down in Khiram Srigufara in South Kashmir and identified by then J&K DG SP Vaid as ISJK militants, the Home Ministry had said these were self-appointed operatives and that the organisation had no footprints in the Valley.
In August this year, the NIA had raided seven locations in Hyderabad and arrested two youths — one of them identified as Abdullah Basith — for allegedly being part of the IS. A month later, the Delhi Police had arrested two Kashmiri youths, Parvez Lone and Jamshed Paul, with weapons and said they were planning to carry out ISJK activities in Delhi. Officials claim to have now found that the two groups were connected and among the common links was an online entity giving directions to both.
“This entity we suspect is an IS recruiter based in Afghanistan. He was in touch with Jamshed as well as Basith. Basith had been phsishing online for contacts to join the IS, and came in touch with this handler. The handler told Basith to get in touch with Jamshed who would help him join the ISJK. Jamshed was also in touch with the handler,” an NIA investigator said.
The NIA probe has reportedly also found that Jamshed had helped Basith get a place to stay in Delhi in 2014 when he was trying to join the IS.
The agency reportedly also has evidence that the two groups were in “preparation mode” and awaiting instructions to carry out some IS activity. Electronic chatter with regard to procurement of weapons and explosives has reportedly been recovered regarding the suspects.
The agency would now investigate Basith further to get more details on the alleged conspiracy and the handler.
An IS propaganda channel specially focused on Kashmir is already in operation in the Valley for some time now. Called Al Qarrar, the channel has been spreading Kashmir-centric motivational literature and claiming hand in attacks. A few months back it had claimed that two militants killed in an encounter, Fidoos and Sameer, were IS martyrs.
In its various posts on Telegram channels, through articles and videos, Al Qarrar has not only declared allegiance to the IS but also called Hurriyat leaders “kafirs” for supporting democracy and calling Shias Muslims. It has asked Kashmiris to fight both Indian and Pakistan armies, and called upon Zakir Musa’s Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind to join hands with the IS.
Al Qarrar is opposed to both the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizbul Mujahideen, and has severely criticised the Pakistan army for supporting the Afghan Taliban, which makes security agencies suspect it to be an offshoot of the IS in Afghanistan, which is part of the IS Khorasan.
Kashmir had figured in the IS crosshairs way back in 2014 when a Khorasan map by the outfit had shown Kashmir and Gujarat as part of Islamic State dominion. Among the first few people to join the IS in Syria was a Kashmiri — a youth from Jawahar Nagar in Srinagar studying in Australia, who had joined the outfit in 2013. In February 2016, IS Khorasan had announced expansion into Kashmir “to fight the cow-worshipping Hindus and the apostates from factions allied to the idol-worshippers of Pakistan, such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba”.
However, IS flags waived by locals in protest rallies in 2015-16 were brushed aside by security agencies as merely a way of rankling security forces and not a sign of youth getting attracted to IS ideology.
According to the NIA, Basith was part of a group of four men from Hyderabad who tried to leave for Syria via Bangladesh in 2014 but were apprehended in Malda. He made a second attempt to leave in December 2015, along with his cousin Syed Hussaini and an associate. The group was apprehended at Nagpur airport while trying to leave for Srinagar, from where they planned to go to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and onto Afghanistan. They were arrested by the Hyderabad police.
Sources said Basith had been in touch with key IS recruiter Adnan Hassan Damudi, who had been deported from Dubai in 2016. According to sources, Damudi had sent Rs 54,000 to Basith to help him and his associates leave India for Syria.