court in Kochi last week sentenced six accused in a case related to the
so-called Islamic State to rigorous imprisonment of up to 14 years. Reports
from Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province suggest that ISIS fighters from Kerala
are among the 600-odd militants who have recently surrendered before government
Ten of the
30 cases that have been investigated — or are under investigation — by the NIA
in Kerala are ISIS-related. Several accused have been arrested, and
chargesheets have been filed in some of these cases. Some of those arrested
were brought back to India from the Middle East and Afghanistan, and some were
picked up for allegedly planning terror attacks in Kerala.
allegedly happened through networks of families and friends; recruits typically
came from particular rural pockets, where a local sympathiser of the terrorist
group had influence. In some cases, brothers living under the same roof left
for the “pilgrimage” together, along with their families.
agencies estimate that some 100-120 individuals from Kerala either joined, or
tried to join, ISIS. Some of them moved to Syria or Afghanistan from the Middle
East, where they were employed; others migrated from Kerala. Even in 2018, when
ISIS was largely in retreat in Syria and Iraq, 10-odd people from Kerala made
those who joined the supposed holy war were killed over years. In August 2019,
the family of Muhammed Muhsin, an engineering student from Malappuram, got a
message that their only son had been killed in a US drone attack in
security agencies identified 17 Indians who were suspected to have joined ISIS.
Three of them were from Kerala — they had moved to Syria in 2013-14, when they
were employed in the Middle East. In May-June 2016, some two dozen people from
Kerala, including women and children, left to join ISIS. Investigation
unearthed the Kasaragod module of the ISIS (most of those who went missing
belonged to that district) and led to other modules, involving separate
networks, each with its own traits and mission.
the Kasaragod module moved to Afghanistan with their families “to escape from
the land of the kafirs (non-Muslims)”.
the Kannur module went, or attempted to go, to Syria to physically join the war
on the side of the ISIS.
module is the so-called Omar al-Hindi module, named after Manseed Muhamed of
Chokli in Kannur, alias Omar al-Hindi. Members of this group — who were
convicted last month — were allegedly spread across India and the Middle East,
and wanted to establish an ISIS “vilayat” in Kerala known as “Ansar-ul-Khilafa
agencies stumbled upon this group in June 2016 after 24 people, mostly
professionally qualified young men and women, went missing. Most of the men had
suddenly turned deeply religious after learning about Islam from the Internet
and social media. They followed the hardline Salafi Islam, kept away from
mainstream Muslim society, and had no links with any political party. The core
group converted three women and two men to their understanding of Islam,
arranged for their weddings, and travelled to Afghanistan.
identified Abdul Rashid, an engineer and education activist, as the leader of
this ISIS module. He was accused of converting a Christian, Sonia Sabastian,
and taking her to Afghanistan. Yasmeen Mohammed Zahid from Bihar, who was
arrested in Delhi in 2016 while trying to go to Kabul with her child, was Abdul
Rashid’s second wife. An NIA court found her guilty last year; the Supreme
Court upheld her conviction in August this year.
named 14 other members of this module. Many of them were, however, believed to
have been killed in Afghanistan.
to the NIA, Rashid and several others were expelled from the Al-Quma Arabic
College in Colombo for advocating violent jihad. In Kerala, Rashid secretly
worked to build support for ISIS, and motivated the other accused by showing
them online propaganda material such as the ISIS magazine, Dabiq.
reaching Nangarhar, Rashid remained in touch with several individuals in
Kerala, encouraging them to leave India to join the outfit. Nashidul Hamsafar
of Wayanad, who had tried to join Rashid, was deported to India by security
agencies in Kabul in September 2018. This year, Riyas Aboobacker of Palakkad
and Habeeb Rahman of Wayanad were arrested for their links with Rashid over
encrypted social media platforms. Aboobacker had been in touch with Safran
Hashim, the leader of the Easter terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka.
sources estimate some 40-50 individuals from Kannur, mainly from the
Valapattanam region, have joined the ISIS in Syria. The men of this module were
activists of the rightwing Muslim outfit Popular Front of India (PFI), and
several families went en bloc to Syria. According to intelligence officers,
militant elements within the PFI decided to break away after the Front’s
political wing, the Social Democratic Party of India, was formed in 2009.
figure in the Kannur module is Shajahan Valluva Kandy, who had twice tried to
go to Syria, but been sent back along with his wife and two children. Shajahan
told the NIA he had joined the ISIS to establish Islamic Shariah law in the
Most of the
16 persons of the module listed as accused by the NIA are believed to be in
Syria. Shajahan had been associated with the PFI since 2006, when the outfit
was known as National Development Front. One of his PFI comrades, Muhammed
Shameer, motivated him to join ISIS; Shameer too, moved to Syria. Shajahan
identified 12 people from Kannur who he said had either moved to Syria, or been
deported to India by Turkey.
2017, five members of the module were arrested in Kannur. Turkish authorities
had captured them while trying to cross over to Syria.
prominent figure of this group was UK Hamsa alias Taliban Hamsa. Hamsa’s
confession to NIA exposed the alleged ISIS submodule in Wandoor, and led to the
arrest of one Shaibu Nihar, who had allegedly attended jihadi classes in
Bahrain. This man had unsuccessfully tried to travel to Syria in 2016.
allegedly wanted to carry out terrorist attacks in South India and establish an
ISIS unit in Kerala. The NIA court last week convicted six of the eight accused
in the case, including the leader, Manseed Muhamed. Thirteen persons have been
named as accused; the rest are absconding.
came into existence and operated through platforms such as Telegram, Facebook,
and WhatsApp. It was busted on October 2, 2016, after the NIA raided a secret
meeting in Kanakamala in Kannur. The group had allegedly planned to attack
foreigners, especially Jews, near Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu, besides prominent
political leaders, High Court judges, senior police officers, rationalists, and
Ahmadiya Muslims. They had allegedly tried to collect arms, poison and bombs.
graduate Shajeer Mangalassery, 30, was the “emir’’ of the group. He had moved
to Afghanistan from the UAE in 2016, and used code to give instructions to
associates in Kerala. In a secret chat group called “Bab al-Noor”, Shajeer had
reminded his associates that the group was not meant for “chitchat”, and that
their mission was to help the ISIS. According to the NIA, Manseed operated at
the behest of Shajeer, who was killed in a US drone strike in Afghanistan.
Haja of Thodupuzha in Kerala and a member of the group had fought with the ISIS
in Iraq and Syria in 2015. He was trained by ISIS in Mosul, but had to return
to India after he was injured in the war. He was arrested in Tirunelveli in
Tamil Nadu, and is now in judicial custody.
Headline: Kerala’s Islamic State connection