The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday conducted searches at seven locations in Tamil Nadu in connection with the arrest of seven suspected Islamic State recruits from Chennai in September this year. The agency claimed the searches were conducted at the residences (three places in Chennai, three in Coimbatore and one in Trivandrum, District Villupuram) of the seven arrested accused in the case.
“During the searches conducted, a large number of digital devices including mobile phones, SIM cards, memory cards, CDs/ DVDs with religious speeches and pen drives besides unaccounted cash, books and publications with incriminating content have been seized from the residences of accused persons,” an NIA statement said.
The case was originally registered by the Coimbatore police and later transferred to NIA. According to NIA, a “criminal conspiracy” was “hatched by the accused with the intention of furthering the objectives of the proscribed terrorist organization ISIS/ Daish by targeting prominent persons from other faiths”.
The case began with the arrest of five youth from Coimbatore by the local police. These included Ashiq (25), Ismail (25) from Dindivanam, Salavuddin (25) from Otteri, Jafar Sadiq Ali (29) from Vyasarpadi near Chennai and Shamsuddin (20) from Pallavaram in Chennai.
The police statement had then said all of them were “active in defending radical Islam and posted on social media against those who criticise Islam and Prophet”.
Citing Ismail’s alleged confession, the statement had then said Ashiq had promised them help from more people for their “operation” and that Ismail had links with the Islamic State. The statement said some of the accused were members of the Indian National League (INL) — an outfit found 10 years ago with the objective of preventing Muslim youths from joining radical groups — and they also supported Islamic State’s ideology.
Asserting that the alleged conspiracy was to be carried out during the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations, the police statement had said the arrests were also significant in view of the two murders in Coimbatore — that of Hindu Munnani spokesperson C Sasikumar in 2016 and of atheist H Farook in 2017. The role of radical Muslim groups is suspected in both cases.
The police had then said Ashiq, who worked at a mutton shop, was being watched for over six months since he was linked to a case under the POCSO Act for allegedly abusing schoolchildren. Among the five, the officer said, two had completed their Bachelor’s degree, one had a diploma in a technical course and others had completed school.
INL had then distanced itself from the accused saying they had ceased to be members long ago.