Saturday, 2 May 2015

Mohammed Atif Waseem:the first Hyderabadi jihadist to die for the Islamic State

Mohammed Atif Waseem


After a couple of turns on a dusty path in Shastripuram on the outskirts of Hyderabad, stands a tall glass building with high walls and lofty gates. This is where the family of Mohammed Atif Waseem stays. This is the house in which Atif grew up and spent his formative years.

On April 24, Atif’s family received a message from the terrorist group Islamic State in Syria informing them that Atif had died while fighting for them, and that the State considered him a martyr of God.


السلام عليكم اخي العزيز اود اخبارك ان اخيك محمد عاطف وسيم الهندي قتل في سبيل الله نحسبه من الشهداء ان شاء الله
Translation - Alsalam alakum i want to inform you your brother Mohammed Atif waseem, an Indian has died. We consider him among the martyrs of God.

                    (The message that was sent to Atif's brother)

"He (Haneef) completed engineering degree from Hyderabad around four years back. He later went to London where he completed his masters course. In February this year, he left for Syria from London. He seems to have joined the Islamic State in Syria where he died," said an Intelligence officer.

"How he died we do not know...while fighting or in landmine blast or accidental death, we are not sure, but he died in March and the same was informed to his family members around 10 days back, who stay in Rajendra Nagar here," the officer said, adding that Haneef's family members in turn informed the matter to police.

The family, native of Mancherial town at Adilabad district in Telangana and settled in Hyderabad for past few years, was informed about Haneef's death through an SMS in Arabic language, which they got translated, he said.


“We’re still in shock. We do not know how to react. What drove him to do it, even I don’t know,” says one of Atif’s brothers, as his eyes tear up. “I do not want to talk about what happened to my younger brother, please go away,” he says, closing the gate.

A Well-off kid

Atif was from a well-off family. Hailing from Manchriyal in the Adilabad district of Telangana, Atif’s family settled in Hyderabad two decades ago. His father runs a real estate business, which has provided well for the family.
28-year-old Atif was known to be a bright child. He did well in school and was a Computer Science Engineering graduate from a college in Hyderabad. “He was a very smart kid. I remember playing cricket with him”, says 25-year-old Asif who mans his father’s shop near Atif’s house. “I have known Atif since we were kids,” he says.
He was one of the richest kids in the colony. He was the first one to get a CBR 250 sports bike in the neighbourhood. Even during his college, he used to take his Honda Civic.
                                               — Atif’s Friend

Looking at that the house, what stands out, as opposed to the popular construct of poor Muslims taking up to terrorism, is that Atif was from a rich family. Hailing from Manchriyal in the Adilabad district of Telangana, Atif’s family settled in Hyderabad two decades ago. His father runs a real estate business, which has provided well for the family. There's an unspoken tension in the entire neighbourhood. Even the two little children playing outside the house know they are not supposed to talk about "Atif Bhaiya". There are unlikely to even have understood what this was all about.


Twenty-eight-year-old Atif was known to be a bright child. He did well in school and was a Computer Science Engineering graduate from a college in Hyderabad. "He was a very smart kid. I remember playing cricket with him. He was really good at it and we used to play every day," says 25-year-old Asif manning his father’s shop near Atif’s house. “I have known Atif since we were kids,” he says.

"I remember him clean-shaven with short hair and looking well kept. When I saw his photo that was being circulated through the media, it took me a few seconds to recognize him with the beard," he adds. "He was one of the richest kids in the colony. He was the first one to get a CBR 250 sports bike in the neighbourhood. Even during his college, he used to take his Honda Civic," adds another friend.
His family remembers him as a kind boy. "He had a very helpful nature and he would always be ready to help if someone needed anything. I was shocked when I found out what happened," says one of Atif's cousins, who wished to remain anonymous.

Atif’s move to London seems to have triggered his interest in the Islamic State. Earlier last year, he had moved to London to pursue a Masters degree in Engineering. Family members and police officials say that it was in the UK that he was lured to the Islamic State.

Heeding the Call

But what drove a bright, well educated, well-to-do kid to join a terrorist organization and pay for it with his life, is still a matter of mystery. The Hyderabad police say they have established that Atif was lured through Facebook, and that given his educational background, it is unlikely he would have been involved in warfare.
Atif, however, is not the only person from India to have joined the IS.
Mehdi Masroor Biswas was arrested in December last year on charges of running the Islamic State propaganda Twitter account @ShamiWitness.

That the popular social media account was being run by a well-mannered techie from Bengaluru in India came as a shock to many. Biswas had been using the micro blogging site to spread the ideology and messages of the Islamic State for a while and gathered more than sixteen thousand followers before his arrest.

On December 17, 2014 at around 6:42 pm, Atif made his last call to his elder brother Azeem to tell him that he was in Syria fighting for the Islamic State. He added that there was nothing to worry about. Five months later, the family sits hushed inside their home as they try to cope with the devastating loss of their youngest one.

The last time Atef spoke to his family was in February, when he called up to inform them that he was going to join the IS fight in Syria. He told them he was at the Turkey border,” said the official.
Waseem, who did his B.Tech. from Shadhan College of Engineering and Technology and went to the UK for his Masters’ course about four years ago, was working in Dubai. According to officials, he visited his family in Hyderabad in September last year and got engaged to a local girl who is a Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) student.
A few days after his engagement, he left for Dubai. When he called up his father, Mohammed Aleem, in February, Waseem reportedly told him that he was not interested in marriage and he wanted to join the jihad in Syria. He reportedly called up his fiancee also, apologised to her and told her to marry someone else.

“Fearing social stigma and police investigation, neither his family members nor the girl mentioned this to anyone. About two weeks ago, his father received a text message on his phone that Waseem had died. Nobody knows how he died or where he died. The distraught family took some time to inform us,’’ said an official.


Waseem’s family hails from Mancherial in Adilabad district of Telangana, where his father had a hotel and real estate business. A few years ago, they shifted to Hyderabad. His father and his two older brothers have a real estate business here.

Islamic State's rise in Andhra: Chandrababu Naidu is a worried man








While most of the IS-related activities have been reported from Telangana, agencies warn of the rise of the outfit in Vishakapatanam, Kurnool and Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh. While there has not been a direct case registered as yet in AP, residents of this state have found to be in IS territory. Haneed Wassem, 27, from Mancherial, Adilabad died fighting in Syria. Officials suspect that three more from the state are in Syria. In this context one must recall the busting of an IS module in Hyderabad. Four persons were arrested for propagating in favour of the IS. It was revealed during the investigations conducted by the National Investigation Agency that these youth were planning on carrying out blasts at police stations and also recruiting from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh.

Intelligence Bureau officials say that there are problem areas in the state of AP. "The problem is not all that grave when compared to Telangana, but it could very quickly catch on," said an IB official.

"We have allotted 60 acres of land for the RAF in Visakhapatnam," the CM said.
Chandrababu also wanted an additional battalion of Central Reserve Police Force for the state "to face Left Wing Extremism". Noting that elite anti-naxal force Greyhounds, established when the state was united, has become a model force for the country, Chandrababu wanted the Centre to immediately sanction Rs 850 crore for setting up a state-of-the-art training facility for Greyhounds in AP.

"You have to help us immediately in this regard," he told Singh. The CM wanted the Centre to set up the National Academy of Prisons in Rajamahendravaram.

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