In a major development in the probe against the Popular Front of India (PFI), the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has said that several members of the now-banned joined the Islamist terror organisation ISIS. In order to dodge the security dragnet, they took a long circuitous route before reaching the conflict zones like Syria to engage in Jihad.
Notably, the Modi government on Wednesday banned the Islamist organisation and its associate for 5 years. The central government maintained that the outfit operated as unlawful associations under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
There have been instances of youths being killed or arrested on foreign land and then deported back to India, according to an NIA document on the probe against the group after a series of raids across the country that led to the ban.
In 2017, Kerala Police obtained information indicating that several Muslim youths had immigrated to Syria and that some of them planned to support ISIS in their struggle. The majority of the defendants in the case were PFI members.
Kerala youths were allegedly recruited to join ISIS by Hamza, a Gulf returnee. According to officials, Hamza developed relationships with PFI supporters who already had anti-national or anti-establishment views in order to carry out his objectives.
Md Sameer alias Abu Safvan, the divisional president of the PFI, is accused of devising and communicating the plan to leave India and enter Syria after seeking refuge in different countries in order to eventually join ISIS in Syria.
According to the officials, the accused travelled to Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and Turkey during this time as he awaited the final order to join the jihad in Syria.
Later, two PFI commanders, Abdul Manaf alias Abu Fathima and Mohammed Sameer alias Abu Safvan died in Syria while engaging in jihad. Five people, including the mastermind, were detained by the Kerala Police while the probe dragged on before they joined ISIS, they claimed.
17 people were charged by the Kerala Police with supporting ISIS or Daesh. Hamza, the case’s suspected mastermind, was a “hardcore Salafi disciple” who had previously spoken in favour of the Taliban and ISIS.
The officials claimed that Hamza persuaded Mohammed Sameer and Abdul Manaf, both PFI members, to perform the “hijra” from the land of the “Kafirs” following the declaration of the Islamic Caliphate in Iraq and Syria, PTI reported.
Other PFI cadres like Shajahan VK, who was charged in another terror case, and Mohammed Shajil were brainwashed with ISIS doctrine by Sameer.
On December 12, 2015, Mohammed Sameer and his family travelled to Saudi Arabia under the guise of conducting an “Umrah.” He instructed other PFI associates to flee India where criminal proceedings were already pending against them before sneaking into Syria. Later, it was claimed that Sameer was killed in Syria. Meanwhile, Abdul Manaf aka Abu Fathima, a vitriolic PFI leader, crossed the Turkish border into Syria and joined ISIS.
Manaf died while fighting in Syria as well. Additionally, Mohammed Shajil and Shajahan VK persuaded some of their close friends in PFI to join ISIS. They travelled to Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, and Iran in order to reach Turkey, and they awaited directions from ISIS handlers to join ISIS.
Only Mohammed Shajil and his family, however, were permitted to enter Syria. Shajahan VK and his family were deported to India after being detained by Turkish officials. Shajahan VK attempted to obtain a false Indian passport to rejoin ISIS after spending some time in hiding.
Shajahan VK was able to persuade Abdul Khayoom and Abdul Razak to join ISIS in his second effort with the aid of a man named Midlaj alias Abu Misab, who was also enlisting young people for ISIS, according to the officials.
Only Abdul Khayoom was able to enter Syria out of the three, and he reportedly died there. Shajahan and Abdul Razak were returned to India through deportation. They were detained by Indian police in New Delhi as soon as they arrived.
Hamza also persuaded Manauf Rehman to join ISIS. However, he was later stopped at the airport in Mangalore when he attempted to leave India. Officials claimed that once Hamza was detained, information received from him verified their intentions to join ISIS.