Thursday, 13 July 2017

Kerala Man Kandy Attempts to Join ISIS for 2nd time, Arrested at Delhi Airport

Kerala resident’s bid to join IS foiled second time

Published:July 13, 2017

The Delhi Police have arrested a Kerala native who was deported from Turkey while allegedly trying to join the Islamic State in Syria. The police have also arrested a passport agent who had helped 32-year-old Shahjahan Velluva Kandy procure fake travel papers. The police said Kandy, who was deported from Turkey for travelling on a fake passport, is being interrogated in Delhi about his activities in Syria. “Kandy had gone to Turkey last year in June with his wife, but was deported from there in February after trying to cross over to Syria for joining ISIS.

His wife was also deported,” a police officer said. Deputy commissioner (special cell) P S Kushwah said: “A case under Sections 420 (cheating), 468 (forgery) and 419 (impersonation) under the Passport Act has been registered against him. Further investigations are on.” He was arrested from the airport with the fake documents on July 1.

According to intelligence sources, Kandy was an activist of the Muslim outfit Popular Front of India (PFI). Sources said the Kannur resident had first been deported from Turkey four months back. This was his second attempt to allegedly join the Islamic State. Last time, he was let go by Delhi police after he pleaded mercy and sought release saying his wife was in an advanced stage of pregnancy.

“Subsequently, the NIA issued a notice for him to appear before the agency for recording his statements. However, the notice could not be served to Kandy as he was missing from the house. We have been trying to locate him since then,’’ said an officer. There is no criminal case against him.
Police had questioned him in connection with the arms training camp allegedly conducted by the PFI in Kannur in 2013. But the police couldn’t find any evidence to link him with the case.

ISIS man was member of banned NDF outfit


Custodial interrogation of the arrested ISIS operative Shahjahan Velluva Kandy revealed that he was a former member of the proscribed NDF, an outfit in Kerala whose objective was to focus on socio-economical issues of minorities, with special emphasis on Kerala Muslims. NDF had also announced a plan to aggressively propagate Islam.

Delhi Police on Wednesday said it had also arrested the person who had made the fake passport for Shahjahan, but refused to name him. Police said the accused was in the jute manufacturing business. Delhi Police teams had been tracking his activities for the last one year. Investigation also revealed that Shahjahan was accused of destroying CPM flag masts in Kannur. Shahjahan, who used to live with his mother and two brothers in Koddali Village in Kannur, shifted to Chennai in 2011 after getting married.

“Shahjahan had gone to Turkey with his wife last year in June and was deported this February along with her, after which he disappeared. It was during this time that he became even more radicalized. In March again, he went to Turkey and tried to go to Syria but he was again deported in July after which he was arrested,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police, Special Cell, Pramod Singh Kushwaha.
Shahjahan was arrested from the Indira Gandhi International Airport on July 1 this year after he was deported by Turkey for the second time.

During interrogation Shahjahan told police that he attempted to go to Syria to join the ISIS. He also disclosed that he had links with some of the ISIS terrorists who were arrested in Kerala in October last year. Also, police came to know that Shahjahan was in touch with several ISIS sympathisers in India and Syria through the Telegram Application as hundreds of Telegram IDs of ISIS sympathisers were found on his mobile.

A Chennai based travel agent has been arrested by the Delhi Police Special Cell for running a fake passport racket, reports The New Indian Express. On Wednesday, reports suggest that police narrowed down on M Mohammed Musthaffa, 26, at his native Adirampattinam village in Thanjavur district. The arrest was reportedly made based on a tip off provided by an ISIS sympathiser who was recently deported from Turkey.

It was a passport apprehended from 32-year-old Shahjahan Velluva Kandy, a native of Kerala that led investigators to Tamil Nadu. Shahjahan was allegedly on his way to Syria to join Islamic State, a banned terrorist group.The passport found on him had been procured by using false documents and had a Chintadripet address, according to reports. This is the same area from where police had arrested a head constable and postman, for colluding in a fake passport racket.

Delhi Police reportedly landed in Chennai a week back and have been looking for travel agents who helped Shahjahan procure the fake passport. Musthaffa has reportedly been running the Well-go travel agency at Mannady in Chennai for the last four years. He had supplied a fake passport to Shahjahan for Rs.1.5 lakh and made it seem like he was residing at Chintadripet.

The passport was reportedly identified as fake only after the flight he boarded left for Turkey.
The Turkish airport was alerted and the passport was then traced back to Musthaffa.
The travel agent was then arrested from Thanjavur, where he had reportedly gone for a wedding.
The Delhi team which made the arrest brought Musthaffa to Chennai on Thursday and conducted a detailed inquiry. They are now reportedly investigating if there are more fake passports that have been supplied by the accused.

NIA to seek inputs on arrested IS sympathiser

15th July 2017 

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) will seek inputs from the Delhi police on Shahjahan Velluva Kandy, a Kannur native and IS sympathiser arrested from New Delhi, over his links with other IS persons from Kerala.

The NIA suspects Shahjahan maintained contacts with the perosns who left for Afghanistan from the state and with some arrested from Kanakamala last year.Shahjahan, a PFI activist, travelled twice to Syria via Turkey allegedly for joining IS. However, he was deported on both occasions after security agencies in Turkey intercepted him there.
“The decision to arraign him as accused in the IS case registered in Kerala will be taken based on the facts revealed during the investigation by the Delhi police. There will be information sharing between the NIA and the Delhi police in this regard. It is claimed the arrested person had links with the people who had left for Afghanistan and some arrested from Kanakamala. This will be confirmed by the Delhi police soon,” an NIA officer said.

Meanwhile, the Delhi police are yet to charge the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act(UAPA) against Shahjahan. Offences under UAPA which come in the scheduled list of NIA Act enable the national agency to directly take over the case investigation. “Currently, only offences likely forgery and possession of fake passport are registered against Shahjahan. It is for the Delhi police to find out whether UAPA should be invoked against the accused,” the officer said.

Intelligence agencies had put Shajahan under surveillance after security agencies in Turkey deported him to India while attempting to travel to Syria in February.Currently, NIA investigates five cases related to IS in Kerala.

‘Six Kerala men among Islamic State fighters in Syria’

Updated: July 24, 2017

At least six persons from Kerala are said to be fighting alongside the Islamic State (IS) in Syria since February, according to disclosures by a Kannur resident to the Delhi Police after he was deported from Turkey recently.
Shahjahan Velluva Kandy from Kannur in Kerala, who was arrestedon July 1 at the Delhi airport on being deported, has identified at least six persons from in and around Kannur who were said to be in the IS-controlled territory.

From Dubai

Kandy told security agencies that the six men had crossed over to Syria while two others were deported.
He told interrogators that some of them were working in Dubai and had reached Turkey through Iran, from where they crossed over to Syria on foot. An official said they were interrogating Kandy further to know the exact point from where the Kerala men crossed over to Syria, adding there were many points along Turkey-Syria border to illegally cross over.

All accounted for

“All the men named by Kandy have been accounted for and we are investigating further. Some of them went from Dubai, where they were working, so their families were also not aware. Kandy was caught when a paying guest accommodation where he was living in Istanbul was raided by Turkish authorities,” a senior Home Ministry official told The Hindu. It is not clear whether Kandy and others had the same handler, who was directing them online.
The Islamist organisation, which had captured large areas in Syria and Iraq to establish a ‘Caliphate,’ has been losing territory over the past few months as coalition forces reclaim the areas under their control. While Mosul in Iraq has been declared free of IS control, Syrian forces were in the last leg to recapture Raqqa, the self-declared capital of the terrorist outfit.

Escaped scrutiny

The official said the escape of the four persons to Syria at a time when the hold of the terrorist organisation was shrinking was a cause of concern as security agencies had till now no knowledge of this development. Kandy managed to slip from the radar of security agencies even though he had been questioned by the authorities in February and was under “scrutiny.”

Last year, 21 men, women and children from Kerala had left for Afghanistan via Iran to live in the IS controlled territory. Mainly comprising defectors from Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP), the Wilayat Khorasan of Islamic State in Afghanistan came into existence in 2015. Three of them are learnt to have been killed in drone attacks.

Earlier, agencies had information about 30 Indians who were said to be fighting for IS since 2014. Most of these fighters included former Indian Mujahideen members who fled India after the serial bombings in 2008.

Police said, the last was Kandy’s third attempt to cross over to Syria from Turkey in the past one year. Kandy made the first attempt when he went alone to Malaysia in 2016 but he returned as he couldn’t get a contact in Turkey. He went to Malaysia again in February 2016 and travelled on to Turkey in June the same year with his wife and children. He and his family were caught by the Turkish authorities and deported to India.

In 2017, he again went to Malaysia on a forged passport, travelled to Iran and then reached Turkey with hopes to cross over to Syria, when was caught again and handed over to Indian authorities.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

'Bahrain circle' case: Five from Kerala killed in ISIS' Syria territory

'Bahrain circle' case: Five from Kerala killed in ISIS' Syria territory

The Intelligence Bureau has found that five from Kerala had been killed while fighting for the Islamic State in Kerala. The five hailed from the Malabar region and were killed four months back, an Intelligence Bureau report said. The first news came out when the relatives of Sibi from Kanjikkode in Palakkad were told about his death. The family were under the impression that he was working in Bahrain. Later on the IB found that he was linked to Yahya alias Esa who had joined the ISIS in July 2016.
Another person by the name Muhadis hailing from Vandoor in Malappuram was also killed in Syria. The news of his death was conveyed by his brother Manaf who is working in Bahrain.
One person hailing from Chalad in Kannur and two from Vadakara in Kozhikode are also suspected to have been killed in Syria. All the above five persons had gone missing over the past two years. The police which had lodged a complained had termed the case as the 'Bahrain circle.'
The Kerala Intelligence has received reports of death of five persons from Malabar while fighting for Islamic State in Syria, but the news cannot be authenticated as the information was first received by the victims' family, an official has said.

"Such news is not authenticated, it is only information. But the reports could be true as they were received by family circles," a senior officer in the intelligence wing said.
He said relatives of one Sibi from Kanjikode in Palakkad district, had received the news of his death a few days ago. Sibi was working in Bahrain before joining the Islamic State in Syria. "Further details could not be known," the official said.
Similar is the case of one Muhadis, reportedly killed in Aleppo in Syria in military operations.
His brother who works in Bahrain broke the news of Muhadis' death to family members at Vaniyambalam in Mallapuram district when he came home about a month ago, the officer said.
Abu Tahir from Palakkad district was reportedly killed in US military strikes in Syria in April this year. The intelligence official, however, did not give details of the other two persons reportedly killed in Syria.
The official said the earlier deaths of four others from Kasaragod and Kozhikode districts of Kerala at Nangahar in Afghanistan have been confirmed.
"But it will be difficult for us to confirm the present deaths of five persons reportedly killed in Syria," he added.

Keralites radicalised youth before being killed fighting for Islamic State in Syria

Updated: Jul 6, 2017,

KOZHIKODE: The Kerala youth, who were killed while fighting for the Islamic State in Syria, were the members of an extreme Salafi group in Bahrain before they joined the outfit (IS).

Sources told TOI that the two Salafi preachers from Kerala - one from Mankada in Malappuram and the other from Perumbavoor in Ernakulam - were instrumental in radicalising the youth. Four members of the group, including Muhadis from Vandoor, were killed in military operations within a span four months in Syria.

The Salafi preachers had organised classes at a religious centre in Bahrain and at other places where they injected the extreme Salafism in the youth. A few members of the group were working with a catering company in Bahrain.

Sources said the preachers are members of a splinter group among the Kerala Salafis and have no connection with any of the established Salafi organisations in the state. One among them is currently in Mangaluru and his activities are closely monitored by the security agencies.

After getting initiated into extreme Salafism, the youth were learnt to have contacted some well-known Salafi scholars from Kerala who went to Bahrain at different times. "The Salafi scholars did not entertain the youth as they were found to have strong leanings towards the Islamic State," sources said.

The youth later came into contact with Abdul Rashid Abdulla, the former employee of the Peace International School in Kozhikode, who had already become a full-fledged IS cadre. It is suspected that the Salafi preachers had a role in helping the youth in establishing contact with Abdul Rashid, who is learnt to have steered them to the IS stronghold in Syria. Rashid himself has landed in Afghanistan and is co-ordinating the propaganda activities of Kerala module.

The unravelling of the Bahrain group has confirmed the suspicion of the security agencies that the influence of the IS runs deep in Kerala than what was initially thought to be. The number of Malayalis who joined the terror outfit could be much higher than the official estimate which is based on missing cases. IS is suspected to have recruited more Malayalis working in the Gulf countries. Authorities feel that the members of the families of the IS recruits are either unaware of their migration to IS strongholds or are keeping mum due to fear of being ostracized by the society.

Insights gained regarding the Bahrain group have once again forced the law enforcing agencies to sharpen their focus on the Salafi groups in Kerala. Many youth in the Salafi organisations have lost sense of direction after the innumerable splits in the movement.

Some of these Salafi groups are indirectly propagating the ideology of the Islamic State though they vehemently oppose the activities of the terror group in the open. Many of the youth who are associated with these extreme Salafi groups finally end up in the tentacles of the Islamic State.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Abu Dhabi ISIS Recruitment Cell: 2017 Updates (Part II)


'We're young, unmarried; want to return to mainstream' - Two Islamic State suspects plead guilty before Delhi court

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 29, 2017 (Zee News)

New Delhi: Two suspected members of the dreaded terror outfit Islamic State (IS) on Wednesday moved an application before a court here, pleading guilty to the charges levelled against them. Sheikh Azhar-ul-Islam alias Abdul Sattar Sheikh and Mohammed Farhan alias Mohammed Rafiq  Shaikh have pleaded guilty to the charges before District Judge Amar Nath. The judge has listed the matter for April 10. The court has asked National Investigation Agency (NIA) to file a reply on the plea.

What's the case?

The NIA had arrested Sheikh, Farhan and Adnan Hassan alias Mohammad Hussain in January last year for involvement in a conspiracy to identify, motivate and radicalise, recruit and train Indians in the country as well as other countries. Both Sheikh and Farhan in their application said they were remorseful for the alleged acts. They told the court they are of young age and unmarried, and that "we want to return to the main stream and be productive for the society and want to rehabilitate ourselves".

"The applicants (Sheikh and Farhan) are pleading guilty without any pressure, threat, coercion or undue influence," they said. "It is, therefore, most respectfully and in the interest of justice, prayed that the plea of guilt of the applicants may kindly be taken and after the sentence of the accused, they be directed to be transferred to their parent state prison for serving the sentence," the application stated, which was moved by their counsel M.S. Khan.

Sheikh Azhar hails from Jammu and Kashmir and Farhan and Hassan are residents of Maharashtra and Karnataka, respectively.

2 men plead guilty to working for IS in India, sentenced to 7 years in jail

Updated: Apr 21, 2017 15:39 IST (Hindustan Times)

A special court on Friday awarded seven years in jail to two men after they pleaded guilty of criminally conspiring to raise funds and recruiting people for the Islamic State (IS). District judge Amar Nath convicted 24-year-old Azhar-ul- Islam from Jammu and Kashmir and 25-year-old Mohammed Farhan Shaikh from Maharashtra, following their U-turn more than a month after the court framed charges against them.

The accused had moved an application through advocate MS Khan saying they “are remorseful of the acts alleged against them. There is no prior criminal record against them and they want to join the mainstream and want to be productive for the society and want to rehabilitate themselves”.
“The applicants are pleading guilty without any pressure, threat, coercion or undue influence,” the plea had said. The court had last month framed charges against both the accused and 36-year-old Adnan Hassan for allegedly hatching a criminal conspiracy to raise funds for the ISIS,as the Islamic State is otherwise known, and recruiting people for the terror outfit. The trial against Hassan is continuing separately before the same court.

The court had framed the charges for alleged offences of criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code and under provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had registered a case against the three accused on January 28 last year. They were arrested the next day on arrival here from Abu Dhabi. According to the probe agency, Hassan and Shaikh had been frequently visiting the UAE in connection with jobs since 2008 and 2012 respectively, while Islam had gone to join them in the UAE in July, 2015. Hassan was earlier allegedly affiliated to the Indian Mujahideen and later became inclined towards IS, it alleged.

The charge sheet filed by NIA had claimed that the accused persons, in connivance with other known and unknown associates, had hatched a criminal conspiracy to propagate the ideology, recruit persons, raise funds and facilitate the travel of those recruited to Syria to join the ISIS and further its activities. The final report said that in furtherance of the conspiracy, the accused had created multiple email IDs, used multiple mobile numbers obtained from their associates from different countries, formed various online forums and groups on Facebook, WhatsApp, Kik, VKontakte, Viber and Skype, using the internet and invited and associated like-minded persons, residents of different countries.

“The accused had formed a terrorist gang and acted as a frontal group of the ISIS and incited, motivated, invited and facilitated people of different nationalities to leave their respective countries and travel to Syria to join, support and further activities of the ISIS,” it alleged.

The agency said the accused persons were actively involved in perpetuating, promoting and propagating ideologies and terrorist activities of the Islamic State. “They had voluntarily advocated and professed to be the supporters and members of the ISIS and actively supported, invited support from others, propagated and promoted unlawful activities and terrorist activities of the ISIS by exhorting, inciting, luring and influencing others to become members of this organisation by disseminating incriminating contents including sharing comments, pages, videos, images, literature and openly endorsing, justifying and glorifying the terrorist acts of the ISIS,” the NIA had claimed.
“They had also raised, collected and received funds in the UAE and transferred it to their associates in India, the Philippines and Tunisia to facilitate their travel to Syria to join ISIS,” the agency said.

Can't believe Farhan Shaikh was part of terror group: Kin

Apr 22, 2017 (Times of India)

THANE: A silence descended on the Natekars fourth-floor residence in Mumbra's Kausa area after they came to know that Mohammad Farhan Shaikh was convicted and sentenced to seven years in jail on Friday for being an ISIS member.

26-year-old Shaikh was living in the Dubai apartment of his maternal uncle, Samir Natekar, when he was picked up and deported to India in January 2016. On Friday , he was convicted by the NIA special court in New Delhi for being members of the terrorist outfit ISIS, recruiting like-minded people and raising funds after he pleaded guilty.

When TOIwent to the Natekars' house in Kausa, Samir's wife, Naziya, said they had come to know of the conviction through TV . "I came to know that Farhan had pleaded guilty .I could not believe it. Later, my sister-in-law from Pune called up and confirmed it," she said.Samir was not at home.

"When Farhan was picked up from Dubai, we were shocked. We had no clue what had happened. Later, we came to know he had been deported to India on the charges being an ISIS member," added Naziya while Shaikh's younger brother Rehan, who had just returned after offering namaz, looked on. Shaikh's mother passed away when he was five ye ars old and was raised by his matermal grandmother Mehrunisa (Naziya's mother-inlaw). Neigbours said that Shaikh's father remarried soon after his mother's death, leaving im with Mehrunisa. They said Shaikh has a elder sister, who is married and settled abroad but not in touch with the family .
While talking to TOI over the phone, Mehrunissa said, "I am in Rajasthan and I am very upset. I have not seen him for two years. I can only pray for him. My family members say everything will be okay ," Mehrunissa said that Shaikh, after having lived for 20 years in the economically underprivileged ghettos of Mumbra, landed a well-paying job in Dubai and moved there.

Naziya said Shaikh had got a job in a computer hardware development company and he often told her that his colleagues were good. "He was a reserved person and would play with my two children, I can never imagine him indulging in such activities," she said. Building residents said they had not seen Shaikh since years.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Freedom from IS after 17 months, Indian doctor is back with his family

Freedom from IS after 17 months, Indian doctor is back with his family

For this doctor it was freedom after 17 months. After spending 17 months in the captivity of the Islamic State, 62 year old physician Dr Ramamurthy Kosanam touched down at his hometown in Vijayawada. I am free and feel lucky to see my family in India, he said.

Recalling the ordeal, the 62 year old doctor said that he would be shifted around several times through dungeons in the line of fire. The sight at the airport was a heart rendering one. Dr Ramamurthy who had suffered multiple bullet injuries could barely walk. He could not move his left wrist as there is a bullet still lodged.

The doctors say that he would need at least another four months to completely recover. I was taken to the battle field to treat injured jihadis he said. I had to cater to my own injuries while treating on others he said.
The doctor was abducted on September 8 2015 in Libya. He was freed on February 22 after the intervention of top officials in the government. He recalled that his captors were educated persons. They were aware of the socio-economic conditions of India, he said. There were operatives in the age group of 10 and 65, he also said.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

The Gujarat ISIS Cell: Wasif and Nayim Ramodia Planned to Attack Hindu Temple (Updated)

2 Gujarat Men With Alleged ISIS Links Planned Attack On Saurashtra Temple, Arrested

Updated: February 26, 2017 

Ahmedabad: Two men have been arrested from Rajkot and Bhavnagar in Gujarat for alleged links with the ISIS. This is the first time anyone having links to ISIS has been arrested in Gujarat, the investigators said. In the earlier cases, the people had been indoctrinated by ISIS videos uploaded online or the speeches of its leader founder Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, and had no definite links with the jihadi group, they added. The men -- Wasim Arif Ramodia and Nayim Arif Ramodia -- are brothers and appear to be well educated, with one of them holding a masters' degree in computer application.

"I have no idea about these alleged activities... I don't know if the allegations are true or false. My images of all these years taken a beating," said their father Arif Ramodia, who retired from the Saurashtra University three years ago. The brothers were planning to attack a religious place, said senior police officer JK Bhatt. "We got information that in the next two days they could strike at a religious place - most likely the Chamunda temple in Saurashtra. They had carried out a reconnaissance of the area as well. The attack was code-named 'lone wolf attack','' said an official.

According to officials of the Anti-Terror Squad, the brothers were under surveillance for over a year now. Their radicalisation process had started two years ago and they used to chat with their handlers using secured apps. "The two were in touch with their ISIS handlers through Facebook, Twitter and other social media handles.  We have seized their computers and lots of incriminating documents,'' said senior officer KK Patel.  The squad also seized gunpowder and explosive making material from their residences. "So far, 67 youths, who were influenced by the ISIS, were arrested while planning to carry out terror attacks," Union home minister Rajnath Singh was quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust of India as saying. But the coordination between the central and state agencies has ensured that such young men have not been able to successful to carry out any terror attack in the country, he had added.

Two home-grown suspected terrorists arrested by Gujarat ATS

Police said as per the initial information, accused Waseem Ramodiya and Naeem Ramodiya were preparing for a terror strike at a temple atop a hill in Chotila in Surendranagar district, 55 km from Rajkot. The ATS said 98 gm gunpowder, two face masks, battery used for making bombs and about a dozen wicks made of jute thread were seized from the accused, apart from eight issues of Islamic State magazine "Dabik", believed to be the organisation's mouthpiece.

Stored on two seized laptops and mobile phones were techniques to make explosive devices and guerrilla warfare -- as well as lone-wolf attack -- tactics, the ATS said adding that other "objectionable literature" was found stored on the computers. ATS Deputy Superintendent of Police K.K. Patel said: "Acting on specific information, the Gujarat ATS team picked up the two suspected terrorists with IS links." He said the two brothers were under ATS surveillance for the last one-and-half years after it was found that they were allegedly in touch with the IS through Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Patel said police decided on Saturday night to arrest the two after they came to know that they planned to strike "in a day or two" at the Chotila temple where thousands of devotees visit daily.
The famous Somnath and Dwarkadhish temples in the Saurashtra region were also on their radar and the accused had already done a recce of the two famous Hindu pilgrimage spots.
Two teams of ATS arrested Waseem from near Rajkot while Naeem was arrested in Bhavnagar past midnight. The police said Waseem's wife too was involved in the IS network.
A police official said Waseem had left studies for Masters in Computer Applications course to "do something big for Islam".

He said the two brothers came in contact with the IS in 2015, and held several meetings through Skype with an IS handler who was heard advising Waseem in one of the audio recordings to collect at least 400 gm gunpowder for a "major strike". Waseem allegedly promised to carry out the instruction "as early as possible".

Rajkot/Ahmedabad (Mid Day Newspaper): The Gujarat ATS yesterday arrested two brothers with suspected ISIS links who allegedly hatched plans to conduct "lone-wolf" attacks in the state.
Wasim Ramodiya and Naeem, who have MCA and BCA degrees respectively, were allegedly in contact with ISIS handlers and were planning to target religious places like Chotila, police said, adding they have recovered bomb-making material from them.
Based on specific information about their alleged activities 'inspired by the jihadi ideology of ISIS', ATS officials nabbed Wasim from Rajkot and his younger brother Naeem from Bhavnagar during an early morning operation, said officials. According to Inspector General of Gujarat ATS, J K Bhatt, explosives as well as jihadi literature were found from these suspected ISIS operatives during raids at their residences in Rajkot and Bhavnagar.

"We have been keeping a close watch on them since past three months, as they were found to be in contact with ISIS through Skype and other social media platforms like Telegram, Twitter and Whatsapp. We conducted raids in Rajkot and Bhavnagar and nabbed the duo," Bhatt told reporters in Ahmedabad. Investigation has revealed that the two had planned to attack the famous temple at Chotila town of Surendranagar district, ATS ACP B S Chavda said.
He said that to create terror, they planned to record and upload the video of the attack on social media. They had also planned to carry out blasts at different places and also set on fire vehicles to spread terror, Chavda said. They were also in touch with ISIS' controversial preacher Mufti Abdus Sami Qasmi, arrested by NIA in February 2016, said the officer.

"They were on our radar since past three months. When we arrested them, they were in the process of making an improvised bomb to carry out lone-wolf style attacks," he said. Lone wolf style attacks are those wherein a person prepares and commits violent acts alone without assistance from any group. However, he or she may be influenced by the ideology of an external group, and may act in support of such a group.

(NDTV) : Ahmedabad:  Two men arrested from Rajkot and Bhavnagar in Gujarat for alleged links with the ISIS have been sent to 12-day police custody. The Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) counsel told the court that the two men have confessed to being in touch with ISIS handlers and planning terror attacks.According to officials of the Anti-Terror Squad (ATS), the brothers were under surveillance for over a year now. Their radicalisation process had started two years ago and they used to chat with their handlers using secured apps.

The ATS counsel said that they have admitted to have learnt bomb-making techniques through literature made available to them by ISIS handlers. The counsel told the court that to ascertain more linkages of the two accused with local contacts their custodial interrogation was necessary. The ATS was also trying to find out if the two were in touch with any sleeper cells in the country.
"The two were in touch with their ISIS handlers through Facebook, Twitter and other social media handles.  We have seized their computers and lots of incriminating documents,'' senior officer KK Patel said on Saturday.  The squad also seized gunpowder and explosive making material from their residences. This is the first time anyone having links to ISIS has been arrested in Gujarat, the investigators said. In the earlier cases, the people had been indoctrinated by ISIS videos uploaded online or the speeches of its leader founder Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, and had no definite links with the jihadi group, they added.

Wife's 'impotent' jibe led Gujarat man into the Islamic State

Fed up by the taunts and being called impotent, Vaseem along with his brother Naeem on January 15 decided to execute a task assigned by their handlers. They went to Chotila, but stopped short of executing the task as they developed cold feet. The brothers then are alleged to have decided to torch vehicles in Bhavnagar, but once again stopped short as they were scared.

Investigations have shown that the two brothers were in touch with their handler who went by the alias, 'bigcat' and 'onegoal1aim'. The handler also used the name 'katak313' to chat with the two brothers. The ATS official said that the details regarding the taunts was given to them by Vaseem. "We have not yet initiated any action against her. We are in the process of verifying the claims made by him. If evidence comes our way, then we will initiate action against her," the officer said.

In Hindi, 'ISIS Handler' Told Gujarat Suspects 'You Just Have To Plant'

Updated: February 28, 2017 

Two brothers arrested by Gujarat's Anti-Terror Squad for links with the ISIS were allegedly getting their instructions on a secured phone app in Hindi and Urdu, suggesting that their unidentified handler too is an Indian national.The Centre's lead anti-terror agency, National Investigation Agency, that tracks radicalization among the youth, has also reached Ahmedabad to question the alleged ISIS operatives. In its FIR, a copy of which is with NDTV, the ATS has reproduced excerpts from Wasim's chats with a profile IDs "One Goal' and 'Big Cat' that the police say were used by his handler. In these, Wasim is told to kill an infidel and send across the video and then, promised a readymade bomb that he would just have to plant.

In one chat, Wasim tells 'One Goal' that he had already collected 150 gm of explosive, to which the handler tells him in Hindi, to collect 400 gm but from different shops.In another chat, this one with 'Big Cat', Wasim is told: "Bhai dekhein kaam aisa hoga ke saman kissi jagah tayyar halat mein appko milega aur aap usse target par jake sirf rakhna hai. (We will work out the task in such a way that you will get readymade material and you just have to plant it). In his replies, the FIR says Wasim showed willingness to take up the assignment. The third excerpt of the chat, also with 'Big Cat" has Wasim saying that he was ready for the big job. The handler tells him to kill some infidels and make video that should be sent to him.

The ATS has also submitted voluminous call recordings to the court but concede they are yet to identify others involved in the larger conspiracy, the handlers and people with who the two brothers were associated.

'Big cat, Ninja fox' were profiles used by Gujarat Islamic State operatives

'Big cat and Ninja Fox' were the two profile names that were used by a handler of South Asian origin to communicate with the two brothers who were arrested in Gujarat for their alleged links with the Islamic State. Messages exchanged between the handler and Vaseem Ramodiya had come under the scanner of the Intelligence Bureau following which was arrested along with his brother Naeem.

The proxy profile was used on an end-to-end encrypted online messaging service called Telegram. The messages were exchanged in Hindi which has led the investigators to suspect that the handler may be of Indian origin. Preliminary investigations suggest that the handler may be based out of the country. According to Gujarat ATS chief, Himanshu Shukla, they are still probing his origin and location.

ISIS operative's handler could be Indian, wrote in Hindi: Gujarat ATS

"Analysis of the call details of the mobile phone being used by (ISIS' controversial preacher) Mufti Abdus Sami Qasmi before his arrest, showed connectivity with the mobile registered in the name of Waseem Ramodiya at the address of Nehru Nagar, Street 2, Raiya Road, Rajkot, Gujarat," the FIR read.
"In view of the same, technical and physical surveillances were kept on the bearer of the number. The surveillance had revealed that Waseem was initiated into ultra-radical Jihadi ideology as preached by the ISIS," it added.
Mufti Qasmi was arrested by the NIA in February, 2016 and was labelled as one of the main ISIS operatives in India.
"Technical surveillance on Waseem Ramodiya revealed that he was in regular contact with his brother Naeem and they discussed various developments pertaining to the ISIS. The tone and tenor of the telephonic talks between the brothers clearly indicate that they were highly influenced by the ISIS' call of establishing a caliphate and wished to be part of the so-called Jihad against non-believers," the FIR read.
The ATS has also quoted from transcripts of phone calls between the two brothers and their wives in the FIR.
The FIR said, "The surveillance further revealed that Waseem was being guided by unknown handler(s)."
It listed 'Big Cat', an online profile ID, as one of Waseem's unknown handlers and also listed the messages between 'Big Cat' and Waseem, who was using a proxy profile ID, 'Ninja Fox', on end-to-end encrypted online messaging service Telegram.
The messages exchanged between them were in Hindi, which has led the ATS to conclude that the handler was a South Asian, probably an Indian.
"The ISIS handler was communicating with Waseem in Hindi.
However, it needs to be probed if he is an Indian and was based in India or abroad," ATS SP Himanshu Shukla said. The FIR contains transcripts of messages of the handler, who time and again "instigated" Waseem to carry out "big attacks" and kill 'kafirs' (non-believers), video-record the incidents and send the clips to him (the handler) for further dissemination.
Waseem had replied to his handler that he was committed to doing the work and sending the video clips, the FIR read. In one of the messages to the handler, Waseem was quoted as saying, "Kuch maal ke sahoolat ho jayegi to nikal jayenge Dar ul-kufr se Dar ul-khlfh mein (If I get some money, I will leave home for the caliphate)".
Hard and soft copies of 'Dabiq', the propaganda magazine of the ISIS in English which aims to recruit jihadists, were also recovered from the possession of the accused. As many as 173 files of speeches of Mufti Abdus Sami Qasmi were also found saved in their mobile phones, it added.
"Facts revealed during the surveillance clearly showed that both the brothers were adept at using technology to undermine the efforts of law enforcement agencies in monitoring their activities," the FIR read.

Impotent jibe, failed business led this youth into the Islamic State

When he was offered a role in the outfit, he was skeptical at first. However as his own claim before the police, he had been taunted by his wife for showing no guts. You are impotent, she once told him. This he said hurt him no end and that is when he decided to join the group.
However his journey into the group also was not an entirely successful. He planned attacks including one on a temple in Saurashtra. He also planned an attack at a public place in Rajkot along with his brother. However on all occasions he failed to execute the attack. I was scared, he told the ATS. The officials in the ATS say that they are checking to see his level of radicalisation. There is a lot of material found on him which suggests that he had idloised the likes of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the chief of the Islamic State and the self declared Caliph.

ATS officials are also in the midst of tracking down his handler. This is an important part of the investigation as we need to find out who else he may have indoctrinated and brought them into the outfit, the ATS official also noted.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Islamic State claims suicide attack on shrine in Pakistan; 88 killed

At least 57 dead as bomb rips through Lal Shahbaz shrine in Sehwan, Sindh

At least 57 people have been killed and more than 100 injured in a suicide attack on the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan on Thursday evening.  At least 57 people have been killed and more than 100 injured in a suicide attack on the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan on Thursday evening. 

Deputy Commissioner Jamshoro Munawar Maheesar confirmed 57 people had been killed and more than 100 injured in the attack. The dead include four children and 12 women.
The Assistant Superintendent of Police in Sehwan said a suicide bomber entered the shrine through its Golden gate. The attacker blew himself up after throwing a grenade, which failed to explode, he said. The explosion took place in the area where dhamaal (a Sufi ritual) was being performed after evening prayers.

A large number of devotees, from different faiths and from across the country, frequent the shrine on Thursdays — a day of spiritual significance in Pakistan's shrine culture. Security for shrines has been tightened across the province following the attack.

What we know so far

  • At least 57 deaths and more than 100 injured
  • The explosion occurred in the area where the dhamaal was being performed
  • The attack is reminiscent of the suicide bombing at the Shah Norani shrine in Balochistan in November last year.
  • Armed forces, a military C-130 and a navy helicopter will aid in shifting the injured
  • The Chief of Armed Staff has 'vowed revenge' for the attack.

Armed forces aid in rescue efforts

Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa has directed that immediate assistance be provided to civil authorities. Army contingents have been dispatched along with medical personnel. Combined Military Hospital Hyderabad has also been alerted to receive casualties.A Pakistan Air Force (PAF) C-130 aircraft has been tasked to to airlift the injured from Nawabshah airport, while a navy helicopter will airlift the injured from Sehwan and its surrounding areas, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) has said. The ISPR has also said that the armed forces have placed all required resources to facilitate the rescue effort. Pakistan Army and Rangers are also assisting with rescue efforts at the site. Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah has directed all rescue teams to reach the spot of the attack. “Doctors from Jamshoro, Nawabshah and Hyderabad have been sent to Sehwan,” Shah told DawnNews. He also said security has been tightened at all shrines across the province. Sehwan is Shah's constituency.

Resurgence in terror attacks

Pakistan seems to be experiencing a fresh resurgence in terror attacks.
Earlier today, an explosive device had targeted an Army convoy in the Awaran area of Balochistan, killing three soldiers.
On Feb 15, a suicide bomber struck in Mohmand, killing three personnel of the Khasadar force and five civilians. The attack was claimed by Tehreek-i-Taliban (TTP)
The same day, a suicide bomber rammed his motorcycle into a vehicle carrying judges in Peshawar's Hayatabad Phase 5 area, killing the driver and injuring its four other occupants. The attack was claimed by the TTP too.
On Feb 13, a suicide bomber had struck a protest on Lahore's Charing Cross interchange, killing 13 and injuring 85. The attack had happened right outside the gates of Punjab's Provincial Assembly.
The attack was claimed by the Jamat-ul-Ahrar.
On the same day, two personnel of Balochistan's bomb disposal squad were killed as they attempted to defuse an explosive device planted under the Sariab Road bridge in Quetta, the provincial capital.
The last attack on a shrine of a Sufi mystic took place on November 12, 2016, when a suicide bomber struck the shrine of Shah Norani in the Khuzdar district of Balochistan, where at least 52 people were killed and 102 were injured.
The explosion had also taken place at a spot inside the Shah Noorani shrine where the dhamaal was being performed. At the time of the blast, there were at least 500 people gathered at the spot to observe the ritual.

Army chief Bajwa vows revenge for Sehwan attacks: 'No more restraint'

Moments after a devastating bombing at Lal Shahbaz Qalander shrine in Sehwan, Sindh, the Pakistan military issued a strongly worded statement to "hostile powers", saying it will respond to such attacks. In a short message posted to Twitter, Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (DG ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said, "Recent terrorist acts are being executed on directions from hostile powers and from sanctuaries in Afghanistan. We shall defend and respond."

"Each drop of the nation's blood shall be revenged, and revenged immediately. No more restraint for anyone," the army chief was quoted as saying. He added that Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has appealed for "calm". "Your security forces shall not allow hostile powers to succeed. We stand for our nation," Ghafoor quoted COAS Bajwa as saying. At least 50 people have been killed and scores injured in a suicide attack on the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan on Thursday evening. The attack is the fourth in a string of a shocking wave of militancy across the country, with Lahore, Quetta and Mohmand Agency struck in the last four days.

PM condemns attack

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that an attack on the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar is an attack on the progressive and inclusive future of Pakistan. "The Sufi people predate Pakistan's history, and played an important part in the struggle for its formation," he said. "An attack on them is a direct threat to Jinnah's Pakistan and will be dealt as such," the PM was quoted as saying in a statement released by his media office in Islamabad. Sindh Governor Mohammad Zubair, in his message of solidairty, said, "Sindh is a land of the Sufis. The terrorists have targeted the devotees to achieve their nefarious designs." "This attack tantamounts to attack on the entire nation."

Islamic State claims suicide attack on shrine in Pakistan; 30 killed

Updated Jan 31, 2017

It is the latest in a string of blasts in the country this week.

Islamic State claimed responsibility on Thursday for a suicide bombing in southern Pakistan, the group's affiliated news agency AMAQ reported. At least 30 people were killed and over 100 others injured when a suspected suicide bomber blew himself up inside the crowded shrine of revered Sufi Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan town in Pakistan’s Sindh province, the fifth deadly terror attack in the country within a week.

The blast took place during Dhamaal — a Sufi ritual — when hundreds of devotees were present inside the premises of the vast mausoleum of the saint, police said. Citing Taluka Hospital Medical Superintendent Moinuddin Siddiqui, Dawn reported that at least 30 bodies and more than 100 injured were brought to the hospital. An emergency has been declared in the hospitals of the area. The area is located far from any hospital, with the nearest medical complex located 40 to 50 kilometres from the site of the blast. Devotees gather at the shrine of the revered Sufi saint every Thursday to participate in a Dhamaal and prayers.

Earlier, Sindh Health Minister Sikandar Mandhro said that “40-50 people” have been injured in the blast. Initial report suggests that it was a suicide bombing on portion reserved for women in the shrine, the Dawn reported, quoting SSP Jamshoro Tariq Wilayat. “It seems to be a suicide bombing according to initial information provided by Sehwan police to me and I am on way to Shewan,” Mr. Wilayat said. Rescue officials said due to the non availability of adequate ambulances at the shrine the toll could rise.

“Ambulances have been rushed from Hyderabad and other close by places like Nawabshah, Moro, Dadu,” Mr. Wilayat said. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah ordered immediate rescue operation and government announced emergency in the hospitals of the nearby Jamshooro and Hyderabad districts.

Television channels reported that dead bodies and injured were lying inside the shrine.
Lal Shahbaz Qalandar was a Sufi philosopher-poet of present-day Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The attack on shrine came a day after Pakistan vowed to “liquidate” all those elements posing a threat to peace and security in the country amid a spurt in terror attacks.
The decision was taken at high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday to review the security situation in the country.
“The meeting made a resolve that terrorism emanating within the country or executed and harboured from outside the country would be eliminated and those posing threat to peace and security of the country would be liquidated by the might of the state,” according to an official statement.
 Terrorists have carried out attacks in Lahore, Mohmand agency, Peshawar and Quetta within a week.

Pakistan under threat from Islamic State: Envoy to US

Published Feb 17, 2017

Islamabad: Pakistan is under threat from theIslamic State militant group which may head to the country as the Syrian conflict nears an end, Islamabad's newly-appointed envoy to the US has said.
Aizaz Chaudhry who was named Pakistan's Ambassador to the US this week said that terrorism from Afghanistan is now spreading into Pakistan where elements are trying to destabilise the country and sabotage major events like the Pakistan Super League, a cricket match hosted by the country this month. Pakistan is under threat from the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group which may head to the country as the Syrian conflict nears an end, Dawn newspaper quoted the former foreign secretary as saying yesterday while addressing a seminar at the Air University Islamabad on matters of national security.

ISIS cannot establish a base in Pakistan as the nation is united when it comes to opposing terrorism, Chaudhry said. "It has been established that ISIS is operating in Afghanistan, and as a neighbouring country, Pakistan has severe reservations regarding the situation," he said. When asked about government's efforts to curb sectarian bloodshed, Chaudhry said: "Action has already been initiated against terror outfits involved in sectarian violence in the country". Chaudhry said Pakistan wants Afghanistan and Taliban to enter dialogue to ensure peace in the war-torn country. He said the Taliban had entered Pakistan as migrants and had been told to steer clear of militant activities if they wanted to stay in the country. "We will not tolerate that the Taliban operate from here to carry out terror attacks across the border. The unrest in Afghanistan will not be allowed to infiltrate into Pakistan," Chaudhry said, when asked on the supposed distinction between "the good and the bad" Taliban. "Billions of dollars have been spent on establishing peace in Afghanistan, but to no avail," Chaudhry said.

The US has been pushing Pakistan to stop terror activities from Afghanistan for regional stability. "We will not be pressurised by this so-called 'do more' ideology being pushed on us. We're working on full capacity to counter terrorism and we will continue with our efforts in full force," he said.

Islamic State 'emboldened' in Pakistan, say analysts

Published Feb 18, 2017

Islamabad: A brutal attack on a beloved Sufi shrine that killed 88 people raised fears that the Islamic State group has become emboldened in Pakistan, aided by an army of homegrown militants benefiting from hideouts in neighbouring Afghanistan, analysts and officials said on Saturday.
Pakistani security forces have carried out sweeping country-wide raids following Thursday's bombing of the shrine in Pakistan's southern Sindh province that also wounded 343 people.
The military's public relations wing reported on its official twitter account that more than 100 suspected 'terrorists" were killed in the raids, while government officials lashed out at Kabul accusing the Afghan government of ignoring earlier pleas to crackdown on militant hideouts.
Zahid Hussain, an expert on militants in the region, said a toxic mix of violent Sunni militant groups, many belonging to banned groups that are flourishing under new names, have wrapped themselves in the banner of the Islamic State group.

"The Islamic State (group) might not have a strong organizational structure in Pakistan but we have thousands of members of banned groups sympathetic to the (their) ideology," Hussain said in an interview. "They subscribe to the Islamic State (group) world view."
Thursday's terror attack, Pakistan's deadliest in years stunned the nation and raised questions about the authorities' ability to rein in militant groups despite several military offensives targeting militant hideouts. It also threatened to drive a deeper wedge between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Islamabad quickly lashed out at Kabul, saying the bombing was masterminded in militant sanctuaries across the border in Afghanistan, whose own security forces have been assaulted by Islamic State fighters.
Overnight, Afghan authorities said 17 Afghan soldiers were killed by IS insurgents.
Pakistan's Army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa spoke by phone with U.S. Gen John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, to protest militant sanctuaries on Afghan soil, according to a statement carried on the military's official twitter account. Bajwa said the Afghan government was not taking action against the hideouts and warned that its "inaction" was testing "our current policy of cross border restraint," without further elaborating.

Underscoring tensions between the two neighbours, Pakistan fired a blistering round of artillery shells into Afghan territory on Friday and shut down the Torkham border crossing a key commercial artery between the two neighbours. Pakistan said the barrage was in response to a militant attack on one of its border posts.

Pakistan Army Claims 100 Terrorists Killed After Shrine Bombing

Updated: February 18, 2017  

Pakistan Army on Friday claimed to have killed more than 100 suspected terrorists in retaliation to an ISIS suicide bombing at a crowded Sufi shrine in Sindh province that claimed 88 lives.
The media wing of the army, ISPR, said a "sizeable" number of suspects have also been arrested since last night, when a Islamic State bomber blew himself up at the popular shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan in the southern province.

The statement did not specify where the terrorists were killed or about the arrests and said "details will be shared".
Pakistan Army has launched combing operations across the country, including Punjab province. "Intelligence agencies are making progress to unearth networks behind recent (terrorist) incidents," military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said, without providing details. Immediately after the blast, Pakistan claimed the bombing was planned in militant sanctuaries across the border in Afghanistan, threatening renewed hostilities between Kabul and Islamabad.
The army claimed it has found linkages to terrorist support networks operating from Afghanistan and it has closed the border due to security reasons after the bombing last night. Pakistan Army began an operation in Shalman area near the Pakistan-Afghan border, using heavy artillery fire, reports said. The border with Afghanistan at Torkham has been shut. "No cross-border or unauthorised entry will be allowed into Pakistan from Afghanistan," it said.

Afghan diplomats were summoned yesterday to General Headquarters in Rawalpindi by the Army, which lodged a protest over the use of Afghan soil by terrorists to carry out attacks in Pakistan. The Afghan officials were also handed over a list of 76 terrorists hiding across the border and directing or supporting terrorist activities in Pakistan, the statement said. "Afghan government has been asked to target them and hand them over to Pakistan." Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa assured the people, saying the "hostile" agenda will not be allowed to succeed "whatever it may cost". "Army is for security of people of Pakistan against all types of threat. Nation to stay steadfast with full confidence in their security forces," he was quoted as saying in the statement.

Waiting Game: Fighting Islamic State - A trap for India

Published Feb 19, 2017

Located in the Sindh town of Sehwan, Lal Shahbaz Qalandar is among Pakistan’s best-regarded Sufi shrines. It is associated in popular culture with the haunting voice of Reshma, the late artiste whose family migrated at Partition from the deserts of Rajasthan to Sindh and who shot to fame as both a devotee of Shahbaz Qalandar and the singer who gave us Dama dam Mast Qalandar… Ironically many Indians first heard that devotional song not in the voice of Reshma but of Runa Laila, a Bangladeshi icon, establishing how culture, music and faith link the subcontinent in more ways than we can imagine. All this makes the terrorist bombing of the Shahbaz Qalandar shrine on February 16, 2017 that much more poignant. It is an act of infamy for which the Islamic State (IS), or Daesh as it is known, has claimed responsibility. It has been suggested, correctly, that Daesh’s puritan version of an Islam practised in the medieval desolation of Arabia cannot fathom or sanction divergent and regional practices of Islam, specially in South Asia. As such, targeting a Sufi shrine that is, frankly, beyond just Islamic in its appeal is entirely in keeping with the IS worldview.
Yet, while not discounting IS, it needs to be kept in mind that attacks on Sufi shrines, on Shias, on Ahmediyyas and on forms and modes of subcontinental Islam that are considered “deviant” and “blasphemous” by Wahhabi and similar interpretations of the faith are not new in Pakistan. They have been sanctioned and supported by the ideologues of Pakistan, by a state-back religious police, and even by sections of the military. If these traditions persist, and if a Lal Shahbaz Qalandar continues to draw thousands of pilgrims, it is because common people in Pakistan have soldiered on and still not rejected these aspects of their heritage. It is worth recalling that the outrage felt earlier this week was similar to the response to the suicide bombing of the Data Darbar shrine in Lahore in 2010. That shrine too is a landmark in the city and was seen to be above controversy and safe from terror threats. Sufi shrines, Shia mosques, dargahs, and so on have been systematically attacked in the past decade, in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan.
In fact, one fears for the Hinglaj Mata temple in Las Bela, Balochistan. This is the westernmost of the Shaktipeeths so sacred to Hindus. It is a location that attracts local Muslims too. They associate it with not Shiv and Sati but with a divine calling going back to before the advent of Islam but accepted and incorporated even after the embracing of and conversion to Islam. This is a complex reality that unsophisticated, black-and-white zealots can never comprehend. Who threatens any Pakistani Muslim who does not conform to a narrow Wahhabi or Deobandi idea of Sunni Islam? One need not even discuss here the predicament of Pakistan’s Hindus, Christians or its once-sizeable Jewish community; their story is in another category altogether. Spin doctors in Islamabad argue the challenge comes from the IS. In 2010, when Data Darbar was bombed, there was no IS. The villain then was the Tehreek-e-Taliban or Pakistan Taliban. In recent years, as the IS has strived to gain a foothold in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, it has taken in former Tehreek-e-Taliban cadre. Many militants have changed labels in expectation of better pay and logistics.
Recruitment to the Pakistan Taliban and the fledgling IS, is carried out in the same Pakistani Punjab rural heartland where the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, the anti-Shia Sipah-e-Sahaba, its affiliate the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and the Jaish-e-Mohammed seek to swell their numbers. Of course, each of these groups has different tactical motivations. One may focus on attacking Indian soldiers and civilians in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere, another may prioritise a genocide of Pakistani Shias. Nevertheless a Sunni supremacism and a distaste for so-called unauthorised rituals in Islam is common to them. Ultimately, the syncretic appeal of a Data Sahib or a Lal Shahbaz Qalandar is antithetical to this jihadist spectrum. As such, rather than inspired by IS actions in Iraq and Syria, the bombing of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar follows a history of state-backed Sunni extremists and state-condoned Sunni militia systemically annihilating supposed “heretics” within Pakistan’s own Muslim community. The IS has exploited this environment; it has not created it. That toxic atmosphere pre-existed IS and can be traced back to at least the Zia-ul-Haq decade, from which Pakistan has not recovered and perhaps may never recover.
The distinction between these groups is not so much in terms of theological construct, it is political. Lashkar and similar militia are loyal to the Pakistani state and usually listen to the generals. Tehreek-e-Taliban and IS fantasise about taking over Islamabad, overthrowing the Pakistani state and building a pan-national Caliphate. The Afghan Taliban sees the Pakistani state as an ally in its effort to recapture Kabul. Not surprisingly, Islamabad-Rawalpindi have presented IS as beyond the pale and the principal problem, but the Afghan Taliban as part of the solution. As a former Pakistani foreign secretary said at a closed-door conference a few months ago, “Tehreek-e-Taliban and IS are brigands and terrorists. (Afghan) Taliban are Afghan nationalists.” He didn’t bother mentioning Lashkar or its parent, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa. Strategically, all these militia are a threat to India. Tactically, IS and/or Tehreek-e-Taliban is a threat to Pakistan. It may one day become a direct threat to India but at the moment, it is Pakistan that is facing the heat. That is why it is using this chance to try and mainstream the Afghan Taliban as “not-so-bad guys” who can help take on the IS. This is poppycock. Those maverick voices in India urging that the Narendra Modi government to send troops to fight IS should know better. What they are in effect suggesting is that India walk into somebody else’s war, and somebody else’s trap.