Sleeper Cell members of ISIS captured in India include a teenager and a minor
January 23, 2019 | Brainwave Science
India celebrates its Republic Day on the 26th of January, which falls on a Saturday this year. The year 2019 marks India’s 70th Republic Day. The Constitution of India, which made the country a Sovereign, Democratic, Republic was formally adopted on January 26, 1950. Ahead of the upcoming celebrations, the Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad arrested nine suspects including a teenager for alleged terror links from Maharashtra’s Mumbra, Thane and Aurangabad. All of them are allegedly linked to the ISIS terror group, the Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) has alleged. Based on credible inputs, Maharashtra ATS trailed the suspects for weeks. As per several media reports, “The Maharashtra ATS was investigating the presence of sleeper cells in the state ahead of Republic Day. Based on “reliable” intelligence inputs, the ATS sleuths gathered “relevant information about them” and started trailing the nine “for several weeks.”
Explosives, mobile phones, hard drives, SIM cards, acid bottle, and sharp knives have been found on the men arrested during the raids. Arrested suspects include a teenager from Thane, Mubai, a 20- and 25-years old men have been held at Kaisar Colony in Aauranagabd. A 35-year-old was arrested from Damadi Mahal in Auranagabad and another 25-year-old was picked up from Rahat Colony, also in Auranagabad. A fifth person was arrested from Amrutnagar in Mumbra. Four others, in their 20s, were also arrested from Mumbra.
According to ATS officials, three of the nine – Salman, Mohseen, and Taki – are brothers, and were influenced by ISIS sympathizers and were given the task to radicalize others to join ISIS. Mohseen, the eldest of the trio, was monitoring every member from Mumbra and was connected with propaganda module of ISIS and was head of the local module. Mohammad Mazhar Shaikh who worked in private firm in Bhiwandi as a computer engineer met Mohseen and Salman during Ramadan in a mosque at Mumbra last year. Fahad Shah, a civil engineer, got in touch with Salman during Ramadan at a mosque in Mumbra area and after that, they were in regular touch and often visited together in Aurangabaad. He also had a visa for Saudi Arabia. The ATS claimed that Salman had radicalized Fahad. Zamen Kuttepadi who worked as a medical representative has very good knowledge about chemicals and Mohseen allegedly recruited him for any possible chemical attack and logistic support, the ATS said.
“When it was revealed that the group is likely to carry out terror acts, the ATS formed about a dozen teams and carried out searches and seizures at five different locations in Mumbra, Thane, and Aurangabad simultaneously during the intervening night and early morning of 22 January,” ATS official said.
A year ago, in November 2017, Abu Zaid, was arrested just as he landed at the Mumbai airport from Saudi Arabia. Abu was part of an ISIS module that was planning an attack in India, said the ATS, but was busted before they could raise the money for it. He is part of an ISIS module that was uncovered by the ATS of the Uttar Pradesh police earlier. There are two ways in which ISIS poses a threat to India: through its physical presence in the region, and through its virtual presence in the cyber world. On the physical presence front, the presence of ISIS terrorists and ISIS-inspired groups in Afghanistan and Bangladesh worries the Indian security establishment. Wilayah Khorasan, the ISIS wing in Afghanistan, does not just threaten Indian interests in Afghanistan but also promises to wage a war in Kashmir. On the second, the problem is more in the realm of regulating new-age technology. Even if ISIS sympathizers in India do not get to communicate directly to some functionary in either Afghanistan or West Asia, they can access a host of propaganda material online.
It is a primal challenge for the current administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the following governments of India to tackle this multi-pronged National Security issue head-on. The Indian government’s nascent steps to regulate such platforms of encrypted chatting apps used can be seen in this background. However, it is going to be a mighty difficult balancing act to guarantee individual privacy, uphold the right to dissent and crack down on forces threatening national security. Technological challenges must be met with mettle with technological innovation as the online radicalization poses a clear and present danger for the world’s largest democracy.
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