A 24-year-old man, who had tried twice earlier to reach Syria to fight for the Islamic State (IS), was among two persons arrested Sunday by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in Hyderabad for allegedly planning to carry out the terror group’s activities in India, including recruitment.
NIA officials identified the two as Abdullah Basith, who was caught in 2014 and 2015 before he could leave India for Syria (see page 9), and his associate Mohammed Abdul Qhadeer, 19. Basith was nabbed for “conspiring to further the activities of IS (and) carry out terrorist acts in India”.
Both are part of a group of eight men from Hyderabad who are being questioned by NIA on suspicion of planning to carry out subversive activities at the behest of IS handlers, officials said. The Indian Express had reported on August 9 that NIA had raided seven locations in Hyderabad and apprehended the eight on the basis of “suspicious” online activity.
This is the first time in almost 10 months that suspects from India have been arrested for their alleged association with the IS. The arrests are being viewed by the security establishment as a signal of the continued attraction of the outfit despite its dream of a Caliphate having been defeated in the Middle East.
In October last year, Kerala Police booked five men on similar charges — the NIA took over that case in December 2017. So far, the NIA has arrested 78 men for their alleged association with the IS.
”Initial questioning has brought out the involvement of accused Abdullah Basith, Mohd Abdul Qhadeer and other associates in pledging their allegiance to the proscribed terrorist organization IS to carry out terror activities in India,” Alok Mittal, NIA IG, said.
According to the NIA, Basith is from Hafeezbaba Nagar while Qhadeer is a resident of Chandrayangutta, both in Hyderabad. “They were placed under arrest today to ascertain the details of the ongoing conspiracy and their role in furthering the ISIS ideology to carry out terrorist acts in India,” Mittal said.
According to NIA, Basith was part of a group of four men from Hyderabad that tried to leave for Syria via Bangladesh in 2014 but was apprehended in Malda while trying to cross the border. At the time, Hyderabad Police had counselled the youth and handed them over to their parents after a warning.
Basith, however, made a second attempt to leave in December 2015, along with his cousin Syed Hussaini and an associate from 2014 Maaz Hassan Farooqui. The group was apprehended at Nagpur airport while trying to leave for Srinagar from where they planned to go to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and on to Afghanistan. They were placed under arrest by Hyderabad Police, which filed a charge sheet at a local court on December 22, 2017 — the trial is on.
”We had to place him under arrest again as he had not been cooperating during interrogation and his online activity suggested that he and his associates were planning to carry out subversive activities. Given his history of association with the IS and his refusal to mend his ways despite several warnings, his activities could not be ignored any longer,” said an officer involved with the investigation.
In the past, sources said, Basith is suspected had been in touch with key Islamic State 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 escape to Bangladesh in 2014 from where he had promised to help them reach Syria via Turkey.
According to NIA investigators, Damudi was alleged to have recruited close to a dozen Indians since his stay in Dubai from 2012 and had helped send some of them to Syria. Sources said he was among the few 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 Armar on the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists and imposed financial sanctions against him. His brother Sultan Armar was reported by IS-related websites to have died fighting in Kobane in 2015.
Damudi is on trial while two of his associates, J&K-born Azhar Al Islam and Mumbai-born Farhan Sheikh, who were deported from Dubai along with him, have pleaded guilty and were sentenced to seven years of rigorous imprisonment.
”Basith and several of the others were under surveillance since 2014. However, their online activity recently suggested that they were in touch with someone from abroad and were planning to execute an attack,” said a security official.
The agency had earlier seized laptops and mobile phones from the eight suspects, including Basith and Qhadeer. They have been sent to FSL Hyderabad for examination, NIA said.