New Age Islam News Bureau
20 Nov 2015
• Jr. Owaisi, E-Books Had Impact on Indian ISIS Recruit Areeb Majeed, Files Show
By Sagnik Chowdhury
• Wanted To Join IS, Return To Wage War Against India: Hyderabad Engineer Salman Mohiuddin
By Sagnik Chowdhury
• Was Influenced By Youtube, There Will Be A Caliphate: ISIS Sympathiser Afsha Jabeen
By Sagnik Chowdhury
• Mehdi Masroor Biswas: Terror’s propaganda tweets via Gulf, India
By Sagnik Chowdhury
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Techie Left Note for Wife before Heading to Join IS
By Josy Joseph
November 20, 2015
Muhammed Ahad was deported by Turkish authorities from Syrian border
Muhammed Abdul Ahad had planned everything to the last detail. The last, most minute detail, in fact. His wife was instructed to open a particular document on his laptop only after November 30, 2014, that too only if there was no communication from him.
It was an instructive manual for her on how to respond to his disappearance, how to spend the rest of her life, and how to get their daughter married.
Over the past several months, Indian agencies have intercepted, arrested or questioned several dozen people that they suspect were on their way to the Syrian battlefield to join the Islamic State (IS). Each of them has given differing reasons and religious motivations for their plans. But some like the U.S.-educated computer professional, Ahad, continue to mystify investigators, though he has officially been given a clean chit. With the detailed instructions on his laptop, $3,000 and a gold biscuit, Ahad took his wife, five children and two of his acquaintances from the local mosque on a trip to Turkey on December 23, 2014. The ultimate destination it would seem was the Syrian battlefield.
The group spent 10 days in Istanbul, Ankara and Gaziantep, before they were intercepted by the Turkish authorities at the Syrian border. According to statements recorded by Ahad with Indian agencies, after the group was deported to India on January 30, 2015, he was planning to open an NGO in Syria to help victims of the conflict.
However, the detailed instructions for his wife, and his inability to give clear answers about where he was headed in Syria, have raised doubts about his ultimate plans. “It seemed as if he had a contact from Syria who was to pick him up at the border. But the contact did not turn up,” one official said.
Ahad warned wife not to contact police
Muhammed Abdul Ahad, a U.S.-educated computer professional from Bangalore, was intercepted by Turkish authorities last year on the Syrian border and deported earlier this year.
In a note to the wife, Ahad had detailed every aspect of the family’s expense, how to save money, important numbers and reliable people, how to get the daughter married, and who to turn to for further financial assistance.
The most important part of his note, which raised doubts about Ahad’s intentions, was the instruction to his wife: “Never contact any police and other law enforcement to try to locate me; never contact any Attorney/Lawyer to release me from jail if I am there, or do anything on this matter, only if I instruct to do something over phone, then do it, don’t do anything on your own.”
He barred his wife from contacting any of their relatives to complain about his disappearance and to locate him. “If you want to consult with someone, on my matter, you are allowed to do so to console yourself; in that case, consult only a person of good Iman and Taqwa,” he told her. In between preparing the long memo for his wife, Ahad had also got his household items packed up and individually labelled, with rates at which they could be sold.
“Remember above are current monthly expenses; they will reduce at least by 20 per cent if I am not with you,” the note said. The U.S.-educated computer professional suggested that if his mobile connection was cancelled, it would save the family Rs 500-600 a month, and listed instruction on how to log in to the Vodafone website for the cancellation. Downgrading the Internet connection to an affordable level could bring down the monthly bill further, he wrote.
He suggested shifting to a cheaper house, how to save electricity by switching off fans and lights, terminating the maid’s service and so on.
After getting their daughter married with money received on selling a gold biscuit and some borrowings, his wife should look at starting a business from home, he says.
Jr. Owaisi, E-Books Had Impact on Indian ISIS Recruit Areeb Majeed, Files Show
By Sagnik Chowdhury
November 17, 2015
Areeb Majeed is currently in judicial custody in Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail, making him the only Indian in custody to have fought with the IS. (Source: Express Archive) - See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/i-was-content-i-did-all-i-could/#sthash.rJhH8jr3.dpuf
From Kalyan, Mumbai
Arrested on return from Turkey, on Nov 28, 2014
“If you go back to India, there is only one place you are going, jail,” the ‘ameer’ told Areeb Majeed. “I replied, ‘I know, but one day I will meet my family’.”
As per Majeed’s statement to interrogators, this is all he had to tell Abu Hammam Iraqi, chief of the Islamic State’s Tasnia or Ministry of Defence and Development in Raqqah, Syria, to be allowed to return home. The date was November 21, 2014, six months after he and three other youths left Kalyan, Mumbai, to fight alongside the IS, becoming among the first Indians to do so.
Majeed is currently in judicial custody in Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail, making him the only Indian in custody to have fought with the IS. In his interrogation report, running into 76 pages, the 24-year-old talks about what drove him to the outfit, how he financed his travel to Syria, and his time as a suicide bomber for the IS.
He has been charged under IPC Section 125 for waging war against an Asiatic Power In Alliance With the Government of India.
The Indian Express was the first to report about Majeed, Shaikh and two other Kalyan youths, Saheem Tanki and Aman Tandel, joining the IS. While Majeed returned home in November last year and Tanki is believed to be dead, Shaikh and Tandel remain missing.
The influence: Owaisi and others
When the Bazarpeth police in Kalyan, Mumbai, were called upon to quell a protest by Ahl-e-Hadith followers on January 1, 2014, it was their first encounter with Majeed and Shaikh, both engineering students with an inclination towards the more puritanical sect of Islam.
The dispute was over the playing of Bollywood songs during Eid-e-Milad-Un-Nabi. “The playing (of) music is prohibited as per the… Hadith,” Majeed told his interrogators.
“In 2014, the Eid-e-Milad-Un-Nabi was on 14/01/2014… We (knew) the Barelvi sect will definitely play a mischief, and I along with many followers of Ahl-e-Hadith were gathered outside the Kotbahar Masjid. When the procession proceeded, (the) organiser played Bollywood songs… Fahad went to the extent of pulling down the mike from the vehicle… I was very impressed,” Majeed said.
By then, Majeed had already been drawn to IS propaganda sites, and expressed interest in travelling to Syria while chatting with contacts in Australia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and America.
Majeed told officials controversial AIMIM leader Akbaruddin Owaisi was one of the 10 speakers whose videos and lectures he would see. “I used to listen to every speech of his.”
The others included Saudia Arabia theologian Muhammed Al Arifi, Mohammed Hoblos from Australia, Imran Hosein, Australian preacher Musa Cerontonio, Abu Waleed, controversial preacher Anjem Chaudhary, Pakistani-born Tauseef ur Rahman, and Shaikh Abdullah Azzam.
Majeed also downloaded e-books as well as the I-Quran mobile application. These e-books, videos and lectures “had a great impact on me in developing my jihadi mindset”, Majeed said.
The departure: Western Union, Facebook
On May 23, 2014, the four Kalyan youths flew to Baghdad as part of a group of 22 pilgrims intending to visit religious shrines in Iraq. They pooled in money and paid Rs 2.4 lakh in three instalments to a tour operator in Mumbai’s Byculla area, Majeed said.
Later, Afghan businessman Rehman Daulati and a Kuwaiti contact wired $US 1,000 to him through Western Union Money Transfer in Baghdad, Majeed said.
A “Facebook contact” and resident of Syria, Tahira Bhatt, reportedly helped them enter Syria. He also named Abu Fatima and Ali as contacts in Iraq, while Sayfulla Timayare alias Abu Falluja from Turkey was a “facilitator” for those wanting to join the IS.
According to Majeed, he and his friends received their ‘Tazkiya’ or recommendation to join the IS directly from Umar Shishani, the outfit’s dreaded Chechen military commander of Iraq and Syria.
The combat: Isteshaadi, Ighimasi
After he had made his way to Iraq, Majeed said, they stayed 10-12 days on the outskirts of Mosul at Jazira, where around mid-June 2014, he was given the nom de guerre Abu Ali al Hindi.
There were three rounds of training sessions, lasting more than a month.
Around August 22 last year, Majeed said, he was informed by the ‘ameer’ of the IS’s fidayeen squad that his turn had come. “There was a fight … for conquering Mosul dam, so I participated in it as an isteshaadi i.e. suicide bomber, with 2.5 tonnes of explosives in a civilian van. Mosul dam was surrounded by Kurdish army… I would blow up the explosives-laden car.”
However, the van was bombed in an airstrike.
“Next day, I came to Tel Afar city to receive training as ighimasi, which means fighting with as many weapons and ammunitions (as) one can, and when the ammunitions are over, (to) move towards the enemy and blow up with the help of (an) explosive belt. After three days, I along with other 11 ighimasi returned to Mosul dam battle. Each of us was provided with Russian AK-47, Dragunov sniper rifle, PKC machine gun, RPG, 1000 rounds of PKC, 300 rounds of AK-47, four hand grenades, Glock 19, 50 cartridges of .9mm, platinum knife,” Majeed said.
The fight began at 5 am and around 5 pm, Majeed said, he was shot for the first time. Unconscious for about two hours, he was taken for dead.
For eight days, Majeed was at a hospital in Tel Afar, over 65 km from Mosul. “On the ninth day, I went for another martyrdom operation in Zammar near Kurdistan (with a) car laden with 3 tonnes of explosives. I stayed there for almost 20 days… But the enemy never attacked,” he told interrogators.
Majeed then moved to Kirkafir, an hour’s drive from Zammar. “There I waited for 15 days with the same car full of explosives, but the Kurdish army attacked Rabea and I was asked to move to Rabea… But they retreated knowing that I was isteshadi and they started firing towards my car, in which I was injured for the second time.”
Majeed drove back to the IS camp and received primary treatment. The next day, he moved to Talal Huwa, 15 minutes from Rabea.
“My car was repaired and on the 7th day, the Kurdish army attacked us. My leader Abu Sadik, who was a local guy, ran away with 10 soldiers, leaving the other 13 of us. I moved towards the Kurdish army but (they were) continuously firing. My car was damaged. I got down and fought along with the 12 associates till our ammunitions were over. Then we waited for death,” Majeed told interrogators.
Finally, after they had received word from Sadik, the group retreated.
Masked Kashmiri youth hold Islamic State and Lashkar-e-Taiba flags as well as posters of Pakistan founder Ali Mohammad Jinnah during protest outside Jamia Masjid in Srinagar. Express Photo
The return: A Skype call
Around this time, Majeed said, he contacted his sister on Skype. He was working in Raqqah in the IS’s civil engineering department at the time.
“This was the first time the family came to know I was alive. Thereafter, I kept talking with my family every other day and they used to just say, ‘Tumko jo chahiye tha, tumne kar liya, ab apne maa-baap aur bhai-behen ke liye wapas aa jao (You have done what you wanted, now come back for your parents and siblings)’,” Majeed told officials.
“I missed my sister’s wedding and this was again very hurting for me. Thereafter, I felt my parents were right… I was content that I did everything I can and now, I would like to return,” Majeed told interrogators.
Majeed said he met the ‘ameer of Tasnia’, Abu Hammam and requested official permission on grounds of medical and family problems to return home. He was granted permission three days later, he said.
Majeed told officials he made his way through Jarabulus in Syria to Gaziantep and Istanbul in Turkey, and flew to Mumbai on November 27, 2014.
At 5.30 am the next day, he landed and was taken into custody.
Wanted To Join IS, Return To Wage War Against India: Hyderabad Engineer Salman Mohiuddin
By Sagnik Chowdhury
November 18, 2015
Arrested on January 16, 2015, from Hyderabad airport
“I had no livelihood here (in Hyderabad), and used to spend hours together over Internet chatting with ‘Daula Newsroom’ group members. I felt that western forces are plundering Muslim property and Muslims are facing pitiable situation all over the world and the solution is to establish Islamic State, where Sharia law can be implemented,” electronics engineer Salman Mohiuddin told his interrogators after being arrested from Hyderabad’s international airport on January 16 this year.
The Cyberabad police has alleged that Mohiuddin, 32, the father of two, was about to fly to Dubai, from where he planned to reach Syria via Turkey to join the IS, when he was held, making him the third arrest in India for association with the terror outfit. This was months after he had to return to Hyderabad from the US over visa issues.
In his interrogation report, accessed by The Indian Express, Mohiuddin claimed to have been attracted to the IS as he faced discrimination in the US and said he intended to “proceed to Syria to join the IS and later return to wage war against India”. His only “weakness” recorded by the interrogators was “smoking”.
The indoctrination: Meeting Nicky Joseph
The son of a retired chief engineer of the Andhra Pradesh Housing Board, Mohiuddin did his BTech from Anwar-ul-Uloom College of Engineering and Technology in Vikarabad. Married in 2007, a year before he graduated, he had two children, a daughter and a son, in quick succession.
In 2010, Mohiuddin left for the US to do a Masters in Science in transportation planning and management from Texas Southern University in Houston. For two years, till 2014, he worked as a desktop support engineer at oilfield service company Baker Hughes in Texas and at Merathon Petroleum in Findlay, Ohio.
“While I was in Texas (2011), I came in contact with a lady, Nicky Joseph (a British national), staying in Dubai through YouTube… I came to know that she converted to Islam from Christianity… I learnt that she married one doctor and intended to marry a Muslim. I proposed her to marry… she agreed,” Mohiuddin told interrogators. “I and Nicky Joseph alias Ayesha decided to join ISIS to fight in favour of ISIS through illegal border crossing of Turkey.”
Joseph, who has now been identified as Afsha Jabeen, an Indian-origin mother of three who was at the time based in Dubai, has denied having any plans of accompanying Mohiuddin to Syria.
Arrested in Hyderabad in September on deportation from the UAE, Jabeen, however, has admitted to interrogators that she pretended to be Nicky Joseph and told Mohiuddin that she was married to a Christian, and that her cardiologist husband harassed her. She told him she intended to divorce and marry a Muslim, but her husband was not agreeing to a divorce.
“This chatting I have done to play around with Salman,” she said in her interrogation report, whose copy is also with The Indian Express. According to her, Salman and she knew about each other’s marital status and their children, and that they were in regular touch “till 2010”.
The radicalisation: Hearing al-Baghdadi
“I am religious, and during June 2014, after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (the IS chief) declared Caliphate, I observed the posts released by Al Hayat — a media centre of ISIS — and was attracted towards ISIS as I was facing indiscrimination (sic) in USA. I learnt more about the Caliphate, ISIS and made research over ISIS by browsing Net,” Mohiuddin told interrogators.
In 2012, Mohiuddin had started his first pro-jihadi Facebook group, ‘Revalations and Hadith’. The second, ‘Daula Islamia’, followed in mid-August 2014.
Mohiuddin said that on Daula Islamia, he “used to post ISIS updates and other relevant information with intention to attract youth”. The page was later blocked by Facebook for its posts related to the IS.
In October 2014, Mohiuddin was forced to return to Hyderabad as his US visa was not extended.
The Syria plans: Time on hand
Back home, he found himself out of work, and engaged in hours of discussions on IS-related developments on the Net. In November 2014, he created two more pro-jihadi Facebook groups, ‘Moderators vs Liberals’ and ‘Daula Newsroom’. “I was active in posting of ISIS posts in Daula Newsroom and used to ask maximum number of people about their plan to join ISIS,” Mohiuddin told interrogators.
Jabeen as Joseph was an administrator in each of these groups, while Mohiuddin’s wife was an administrator in Revelations and Hadith. Mohiuddin said they discussed Quran and Hadeeth in this group.
Daula Newsroom also had a Dubai-based man from Kerala, an Afghan, two youths from Delhi and Bangalore, and a young woman from Mumbai as administrators. Jabeen was an administrator too, posing as Sana Ahmed of Delhi.
Moderators vs Liberals had 2,500 followers and Daula Newsroom 188 when Mohiuddin was arrested.
About his interactions with IS supporters, Mohiuddin said, “I observed negative propaganda by Western media towards ISIS that one of the IS militants married (a) 6 years old girl and (of) killing innocent people etc. In this regard, I started to chat with Abu Muhajeer of Syria/Egypt, Abu Al Barra of Iraq who is doing aid work for IS, Hasan Abdul Gani of Iraq, and Abu Muhammod of Iraq, adding them (to) my friends’ list.”
Mohiuddin said it was during chats with “Abu al Barra al Sami, an IS sympathiser based in Syria, and Abu Mohammad of Turkey, a facilitator with links to IS” that he started giving serious thought to entering Syria from Turkey to become a fighter with the IS.
He said Abu Mohammad gave him two Skype IDs — Abdulla_Jihadi and Abu Muhaajir — and said that if he visited Turkey, they would “receive” him. In turn, Mohiuddin told interrogators, he shared his Skype id, ‘Sa1mann’.
On January 16, 2015, Mohiuddin was arrested at Hyderabad international airport while on his way to Dubai, from where he allegedly planned to go to Syria.
Police were acting on a tip-off from US intelligence, that had been monitoring Mohiuddin’s online activities.
Was Influenced By Youtube, There Will Be A Caliphate: ISIS Sympathiser Afsha Jabeen
By Sagnik Chowdhury
November 19, 2015
Arrested in Sept 2015 on deportation from UAE
Her hobby is recorded as “Internet chatting”, dress habits as “western” and food preferences as “tandoori chicken, pizza and KFC”. In her interrogators’ words, Afsha Jabeen is “a split personality”, with “conflicting opinions” on everything, who remains a staunch follower and sympathiser of the Islamic State, and who believes that one day “a global caliphate will be established”.
The only woman charged in India for association with the IS, the 38-year-old Jabeen is an unlikely figure for a jihadist. Settled in Dubai, married to a Hindu real estate agent and the mother of three young girls, she is accused of being an online recruiter who indoctrinated many using a fake identity.
Her interrogation report, accessed by The Indian Express, has her justifying beheadings of Iraqi prisoners by IS soliders, equating it to “the act of killing the war prisoners” in Quran. Jabeen also supported “secession of J&K from India as Muslims of that state are tortured by Indian forces”, and said, “Nationalism is passe”.
About the Caliphate, she said it would implement the Sharia law. “I disbelieve man-made laws rather than the eternal law of Sharia.” Further, she said, “Election of Calipha will be done by Shoora council rather than namesake democracy.”
“… as per me 2/3rd of Quran is jihad, which is Holy War”, Jabeen added.
The indoctrination: Love, discord
Jabeen is one of four sisters born into a Hanafi Sunni family of Hyderabad. Her father is a post-graduate in microbiology and her mother a science graduate. When she was three, her family migrated from Hyderabad to Abu Dhabi, where her father worked at a British firm for a brief period before opening a stationery and printing store, which he ran till 2002. Her mother taught at a school.
After schooling in Abu Dhabi, Jabeen came to Hyderabad in 1996 and stayed in the city for the next four years while she finished her BCom from Shadan College. It was after she had returned to Abu Dhabi that Jabeen met her future husband, who was a paying guest at their home for four-five months.
In 2002, after Jabeen’s younger sister had completed her Class XII, her family decided to return to India. Jabeen, however, stayed in touch with her Hindu friend, and when he proposed marriage, readily accepted.
Jabeen’s fiance travelled to India and embraced Islam, and the couple got married on September 29, 2002, as per Arya Samaj and Muslim traditions. For some time after their marriage, they stayed at her husband’s elder sister’s house in Hyderabad.
Jabeen admits she wasn’t religiously inclined till then. “I became one after my marriage, due to problems (in) my wedlock.”
The metamorphosis: Creation of Nicky Joseph
Sometime in 2003, while she was working as an international reservation clerk at a travel agency in Hyderabad, Jabeen had her eldest daughter. In 2006, her husband went to Dubai for work, and she moved to her parents’ house in Hyderabad, where she stayed for a year. She admitted her stay wasn’t easy. “My parents were dead against my marriage with a Hindu and we had strained relations since then.”
Her husband wanted them all to move to Dubai, but for that they had to get their passports renewed and to make one for their daughter. According to Jabeen, her husband faced problems with his passport and the Wakf Board had to intervene.
In Dubai, Jabeen said, their problems didn’t end. “(Our sponsor) demanded 10,000 dirhams to sponsor visas for us. Due to this, we did not get visas and stayed there illegally from 2009 onwards.”
It was then that Jabeen’s “online religious activity” began. “I was influenced by watching videos posted on YouTube of several famous Islamic scholars such as Zakir Naik… I subscribed my name in YouTube with Yahoo mail id as ‘Afta Zita’.”
“I was alone in the house after my husband and daughter went for work and school respectively. My husband (had) provided laptop and WiFi facility in our house for my time-pass. I used to sit in my house and started searching (the) Internet about Islamic religious literature. Till that time, I did not have in-depth knowledge of Islam, though Islamic studies was one of my subjects up to XII standard. After that I decided to improve my religious knowledge and started searching on the Internet for the same.”
Around that time, she also acquired a new name and identity, Nicky Joseph, of British origin.
The friendship: Entry of Salman Mohiuddin
One of her online comments on a video of Zakir Naik’s lecture was corrected by a Salman Mohiuddin, an engineer who had been forced to return to Hyderabad from the US in October 2014.
“Over a period of time, based on the comments posted by Salman Mohiuddin, I could understand that he has fair knowledge of Islam. Then, I started liking Salman and shared my Yahoo group ID with him and our relationship went on for some time. Regularly we used to share our views on YouTube and Yahoo group on various religious issues, up to 2010. With regard to opening and closing of accounts, technicalities were taught to me by Salman Mohiuddin,” Jabeen claimed.
She said she also told Mohiuddin that she was having problems in her marriage.
Between 2011 and 2013, there was a gap in Jabeen’s online activity. A hypo-thyroid patient, she delivered two daughters prematurely. “We suffered a lot financially as my babies were kept in incubators for two months each,” she recounted. “I was busily engaged with my two younger daughters as (a) lot of medical care was required for almost three years.”
Jabeen and her husband’s passports were kept by the hospital as security till they cleared their dues. “We were unable to take new passports in the names of our kids, visas and renew our passports. We owed huge amount to immigration authorities in Dubai for regularisation of our stay.”
In early 2013, Jabeen as Nicky Joseph created the Facebook group ‘Islam vs Christianity, a friendly discussion’. The group got 50,000 followers within a short span of time, and pro-IS news and photographs began being posted on the group.
The radicalisation: Propagating for IS
Jabeen has spoken of IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s declaration of a Caliphate on June 29, 2014, and ‘Operation Protective Edge’ launched by Israel in Gaza on July 8 last year as events that affected her. “Since then, I became more radicalised,” she said.
The Indian Express reported earlier that disclosures by Jabeen following her arrest led intelligence agencies to at least nine IS sympathisers in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Kashmir who were “active members’’ on her Facebook group and are now under watch. She claimed to have converted four non-Muslims too to Islam.
She identified six administrators of her Facebook group “Islam Vs Christianity, a friendly discussion”, as well as 14 active members of the group based in India and abroad. Investigators say Jabeen and Mohiuddin floated several online groups to indoctrinate and recruit youths for the IS.
In January this year, Mohiuddin was arrested from Hyderabad’s international airport, while allegedly on his way to Dubai and onwards to Syria.
Eight months later, on September 11, Jabeen was deported by the UAE authorities for pro-IS activities. On landing at Hyderabad airport, she was arrested.
Mehdi Masroor Biswas: Terror’s propaganda tweets via Gulf, India
By Sagnik Chowdhury
November 20, 2015
MEHDI MASROOR BISWAS
Arrested in Bangalore
At 12:31 am on June 24 last year, Twitter handle @TalabAlHaqq tweeted — “@onthatpath3 @AbuUmar8246 Salam akhi, how can a mihajir stuck in southeastern turkey get help crossing through to raqqa in sha allah??”.
At 12:48 am, he received an answer from the handle @ShamiWitness: “@TalabAlHaqq walaykum salam, Tal Abyad crossing open now @AbuUmar8246 @onthatpath3”, and “@TalabAlHaqq also there is Jerabulus etc”.
On November 24, @ShamiWitness tweeted, “May Allah guide, protect, strengthen the Islamic State. May Allaah destroy those who allied with taghout (rebel) agents to fight Dawlah (6) (Islamic State)”.
These are some of the 1,22,203 pro-Islamic State messages that Mehdi Masroor Biswas, a 24-year-old electrical engineer allegedly operating the ‘highly influential’ ShamiWitness account from Bangalore, is believed to have tweeted between January 25, 2013, and December 11, 2014. The handle has over 15,900 followers.
Biswas was arrested from his one-room rented apartment in Jalahalli, Bangalore, on December 13 last year.
His interrogation report, accessed by The Indian Express, says, “He said he wanted to join ISIL, but had responsibilities here and hence couldn’t go.”
With the entire case against him resting on tweets, Biswas’s report also quotes him as saying, “Now they (Islamic State) buy tweets in Gulf countries for propaganda.”
The background: an engineer
Hailing from West Bengal, Biswas graduated in electrical engineering from Guru Nanak Institute of Technology at Sodpur, on the northern outskirts of Kolkata, in 2012.
His father, who retired as assistant engineer from the West Bengal State Electricity Board, now practises homeopathy, while his mother is a homemaker. The two are settled in Kaikhali in Kolkata. Biswas’s two sisters are married.
Selected during campus recruitment, he worked in a junior trainee capacity for two years before being confirmed as an executive in ITC Life Sciences and Technology Centre, Bangalore, in March 2014. At the time of his arrest, Biswas was working as a food assistant.
It’s not clear why or how Biswas allegedly got influenced by the IS.
But on October 22, 2013, almost four months before al-Qaeda issued an official statement saying ISIS was “not a branch of al-Qaeda”, @ShamiWitness tweeted: “People need to stop calling ISIS as al Qaeda. It’s not. There’s no bayah (allegiance) to Dr Zawahiri. Maybe ‘post-Qaeda’.”
The propagandist: Twitter tool
Biswas allegedly spent hours each day tweeting IS propaganda messages, posting near real-time updates on the progress made by IS fighters in Iraq and Syria by tracking news sites, cheering IS victories and hailing slain IS fighters as martyrs.
“I used to gather information from news articles/tweets of journalists etc,” he said, as per the interrogation report. Biswas also named a mainstream journalist’s Twitter handle and three other handles that regularly prepared maps about area control based on tweets, all of which were anti-IS.
“Mehdi Biswas has mentioned about him aiding and abetting a self-confessed muhajir (immigrant) who was asking way from Turkey border to Raqqa,” his interrogation report said.
“When questioned about ISIL methodology of beheading and if he supported it — he has mentioned that beheading is written in Quran and Hadith,” the report said.
On December 9 2014, @ShamiWitness tweeted: “Getting beheaded is 100 times more humane, more dignified than what these filthy scumbags do to Muslims (5)”.
The same day, there was another tweet from the Twitter handle — “Remember: 100% of all the torture victims of CIA has been Muslim since the program started. This is a War on Islam. War on Muslims.”
It was a comment on the ‘Committee Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program’, released the same day, commonly known as the CIA Torture Report. The 6,000-page report details the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program on detainees between 2001 and 2006 following the September 11 attacks.
Adds Biswas’s interrogation report, “”He… propagated the group’s image by tweeting things like — ‘ISIL has brought peace, prosperity and zero corruption’.”
The IS supporters: Kashmiri, British
Biswas’s followers were mostly foreign fighters in the IS, especially those from Britain. “He says he is in regular contact with handful of British jihadists,” the report says. “There are 40-50 English speakers who are actual fighters,” he allegedly told his interrogators.
Biswas also claimed “two-three” people from Kashmir were IS supporters, “namely Mauja — Kashmir Rebel, Abu Bakr Al Kashmiri and on Twitter KashmirISIS”.
Explaining the “IS terminology” to the interrogators, he said, “Fanboy means someone who supports from their home” and “Hizbi means someone who is partisan”.
Asked about the identities of persons behind over 150 Twitter handles, Biswas said he didn’t know some of them. Similarly, he said there was no communication between him and two of the Kalyan, Mumbai, youths alleged to have joined the IS.
“Areeb Majeed has never followed his (Biswas’s) account. He is also not in his friends’ list (including Facebook),” the report says. Majeed, one of the four in custody in India over association with the IS, returned to India in November 2014 and is under arrest.
Biswas said he “never followed” Fahad Shaikh either, the suspected Kalyan youth behind the Twitter profile ‘Magnet Gas’. “He is an Indian fighting in Raqqah”, was all he said about the youth who left allegedly for Syria and remains missing.
The arrest: Channel 4
On December 11, 2014, the UK’s Channel 4 News reported that an investigation by it had revealed that the man operating @ShamiWitness Twitter handle, who claimed to be a Libyan, was actually “an executive in Bangalore working for an Indian conglomerate”. While the British public-service television broadcaster concealed his identity on his request, Biswas’s name and photograph were outed by the Twitter handle @mario_greenly.
Biswas was arrested from Jalahalli, Bangalore, two days later. He was chargesheeted under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for allegedly advocating terrorism, facilitating recruitment for terrorist activities and for supporting a terrorist organisation. He has also been booked under the IPC for “attempting to wage war against India”, “sedition”, “waging war against an Asiatic ally of India”, “provocation to rioting” and for “making statements amounting to public mischief”. He faces another charge, under the Information Technology Act, 2000, of “misusing computers”.
One of his last tweets before his arrest, on December 10, 2014, was about an IS jihadist from France, Abu Anas al Fransi, dying in a suicide operation in Salahuddin province of Iraq using a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device — “shia forces in Makashifa, Abu Anas al Fransi detonated a VBIED on shia forces near Samarra (4)”.
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