The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is questioning eight young men from Hyderabad who were allegedly planning acts of “terror” on instructions from suspected Islamic State (IS) handlers. After a lull of at least ten months, IS is on the radar of security agencies again despite suffering crushing setbacks in the Middle East.
The NIA Monday had conducted raids at seven locations in Hyderabad and seized laptops and mobile phones of eight young men suspected to be part of this ring. “The mobile phones and the laptops have been sent for forensic examination while the youths are being questioned. They have been apprehended because it was suspected they were going to execute some terror act. They will be arrested if any evidence is found against them,” said a senior NIA officer.
Sources said the eight young men being questioned are associated with a group of three youth who were arrested from the Nagpur airport in 2015 while attempting to fly to Srinagar from where they allegedly planned to go to Syria and join IS. Two of the three had tried to leave for Syria from West Bengal in 2014 as well but were apprehended in Malda.
“These eight youth were put under surveillance since that time as they had been in touch with the arrested IS recruits and had been participating in online activity associated with Islamic State. However, their online activity recently suggested they were probably in touch with someone outside and were planning to execute some attack. That is why they have been detained and are being examined,” said a security establishment officer.
This is the first time the NIA has questioned suspects allegedly part of an IS ring after the Kerala Police booked five men in October 2017. The NIA had taken over that case in December 2017. While the NIA has arrested 78 youth for alleged association with the IS, no arrests have been made this year for links to the terror outfit.
The security establishment is looking at the Hyderabad case as a testament to the attraction of IS despite the fall of the Caliphate in the Middle East. “Now, there is no place to go to for IS recruits in India. But, the online activity of some youths suggests its ideology continues to attract people from India, albeit in small numbers. These youth had no plans to go anywhere,” a source said.
The agency’s raids Monday were at Shaheennagar, Balapur and Wadiaumar colonies in Hyderabad in connection with a 2016 case related to the IS. This case relates to the deportation of a key IS recruit from Karnataka, Adnan Hassan Damudi. In January 2016, Damudi along with J&K-born Azhar Al Islam and Mumbai-born Farhan Sheikh were deported from Dubai for allegedly propagating IS ideology and recruiting for the outfit.
According to NIA investigations, Damudi was alleged to have recruited close to a dozen Indians for the outfit since his stay in Dubai beginning 2012 and had helped send many to Syria. He was among the few who were in direct touch with chief IS recruiter for India, Yousuf-al-Hindi — later identified as former Indian Mujahideen operative from Bhatkal, Shafi Armar.
In June 2017, the US put him on the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists and imposed financial sanctions against him. His brother Sultan Armar was, earlier in 2015, reported by IS-related websites to have died fighting in Kobane.
He had even sent Rs 54,000 to four youths from Hyderabad to help them go to Syria via Bangladesh in 2015. They were apprehended in Malda in 2014. In December 2015, three Hyderabad youths — Syed Umar Farooq Hussaini (21), Mohammed Abdullah Wasim Basith (22) and Mazhussain Farooqui (22) — were apprehended in Nagpur while trying to go to Syria. Basith and Farooqui, it was revealed were part of the Malda group that had received money from Damudi.
Damudi was detained in Dubai towards the end of 2015 for his IS-related online activity.