Opthalmologist working for Islamic State arrested by NIA from Bengaluru

An ophthalmologist working at Bengaluru’s M S Ramaiah Medical College, Dr. Abdur Rahman, has been arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for working for international terror organization – Islamic State.

As per an NIA press release:

“On 17-08-2020, NIA arrested accused person viz. Abdur Rahman s/o Nassrulla Sharieff r/o Basavangudi, Bangalore in connection with Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) case. Abdul Rahman, 28 years, is working as an Ophthalmologist at M.S. Ramaiah Medical College, Bangalore.

This case was initially registered by Delhi Police Special Cell in March, 2020, after the arrest of a Kashmiri couple viz. Jahanzaib Sami Wani and his wife Hina Bashir Beigh from Okhla Vihar, Jamia Nagar in Delhi. The couple was found to be having affiliations with ISKP, which is a banned terrorist organisation and is a part of ISIS and were found to be involved in subversive and anti-national activities. They were also found to be in touch with Abdullah Basith, who was already lodged in Tihar jail in another NIA case (ISIS Abu Dhabi Module).

During further investigation, NIA arrested two more accused viz. Sadiya Anwar Sheikh & Nabeel Siddick Khatri, both residents of Pune, for being part of the conspiracy to further the activities of ISIS/ISKP in India and to carry out subversive activities in the garb of anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests.

During interrogation, arrested accused Abdur Rahman confessed that he was conspiring with accused Jahanzaib Sami and other Syria-based ISIS operatives on secure messaging platforms to further ISIS activities. He was in the process of developing a medical application for helping the injured ISIS cadres in the conflict-zones and a weaponry-related application for the benefit of ISIS fighters.

Significantly, he had visited an ISIS medical camp in Syria in early 2014 for treatment of ISIS terrorists and stayed with Islamic State operatives for 10 days and returned to India.

After arresting him, NIA carried out searches at 03 premises belonging to him in Bangalore with the assistance of Karnataka Police and seized digital devices, mobile phone, laptop containing incriminating material.

The arrested accused will be produced before the NIA Special Court at New Delhi and NIA remand will be sought for his custodial interrogation. Further investigation in the case is continued.”

The Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) branch was set up in 2015 to cover “Afghanistan, Pakistan and nearby lands”. In May last year, the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh) terror group claimed to have established a new “province” for Bharat with the Arabic name “Wilayah al-Hind” (India Province). A recent UN report said that IS Wilayah al-Hind  has between 180 and 200 members, with significant numbers of terrorists in Kerala and Karnataka.

ISKP had claimed responsibility for a 25 March attack on a Kabul gurudwara where 25 Sikhs, including a Bharatiya national, were killed. It is suspected that Muhammad Muhsin alias Abu Khalid al-Hindi from Kasargod, Kerala was one of the attackers, but ThePrint has claimed that DNA tests show otherwise.

In 2016, IS terrorists from India fighting in Syria and Iraq had released a video condemning Indian Muslims for living in  Dar ul Kufr (land of infidels) and threatened all Indians (Hindus) to “Accept Islam, Pay Jiziya, or get Slaughtered.”

Highly-educated professionals joining IS

Just like Dr. Abdur Rahman, the Kashmiri couple arrested in March from Delhi were also highly educated professionals – Jahanazaib Sami is a B. Tech and MBA, a computer expert with experience in web and multimedia designing; Hina Beigh has BCA and MBA degrees, and claimed to have worked at banks/companies like Kotak Mahindra, ABN Amro, Motilal Oswal securities. In January, an IS cell consisting of Tamil Muslims was busted in Delhi – here too one of those arrested, Abdul Samad, was an MCA.

Many IS modules operating in Bharat have been busted in recent years including at Jafrabad, Delhi (a civil engineering and another college student arrested), Hyderabad (many graduates, including a software engineer arrested), Mumbra, Mumbai (chemical terror plot by software/mechanical/civil engineer, architect, medical representative), Tamil Nadu and Kerala (graphic designer & B.Com arrested). IS terrorist Arif Majeed from Kalyan, Mumbai, who was arrested in 2014 after returning home  from Syria, was also part of a group of 4 engineering students who had left to join the terror group.

The IS online propaganda is so lethal and effective that even a rational and well educated person’s thought process is likely to get corrupted after coming in touch with them, intelligence sources have said. IS has also started publishing a digital magazine Sawt al-Hind (Voice of India), which we had analyzed here.

State going soft on IS-linked youth?

One of the disturbing facts about the arrest of the opthalmologist from Bengaluru is that he had visited an ISIS medical camp in Syria in early 2014 – was this visit ignored by immigration authorities and intelligence? Remember, this was the time when many others from Bharat had been going to join ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Do we have a mechanism to question or monitor those visiting the Middle East (including those going for pilgrimage), and who fit a certain profile?

The NIA press release also talks about two other members of the ISKP module arrested from Pune – Sadiya Anwar Sheikh (20) from Yerwada & Nabeel Siddick Khatri (27) from Kondhwa.

It turns out Sadiya Sheikh had been counselled since she was 16-year-old and wanted to join ISIS. In December 2015, Pune unit of the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) had found Sadiya to be mentally prepared to go to Syria to join the Islamic State after being influenced by online operatives of the terrorist organisation. ATS had then provided ‘counselling’ to her.

On January 26, 2018, she was again arrested in Jammu and Kashmir, where she had ostensibly gone to take admission in a nursing college, on suspicion of planning an attack. However, she was released later when no ‘concrete evidence’ was found. After returning to Pune, she had addressed a press conference to claim innocence. Speaking in good English about her 2015 ISIS connection, she had said, “I had got influenced by Islamic State (IS) ideology. I used to chat online with some groups and people on Facebook. ATS came to know about it arranged a deradicalisation session with a local Maulana. They were successful… I continued my college, I was in Class 12 at the time.”

In Dec 2015, three men from Hyderabad planning to join IS were arrested at Nagpur airport while boarding a Srinagar-bound flight. Two of them were among four Hyderabad engineering students detained in Kolkata by the Telangana police in September 2014, for allegedly trying to travel to Iraq to join the IS. Telangana police neither arrested nor booked the students as they had not ‘committed any crime’ in India – they were just sent back to their families and continued to be under police surveillance. Similarly, 14 engineering students nabbed from Hyderabad airport while going to join IS, were let off after ‘counselling’.

NIA and other internal security agencies deserve credit for preventing terror attacks in our metros and cities that had become a routine feature of life during UPA rule. However, the continued spread of IS propaganda and the increasing numbers of educated Muslims drawn to terror, are flashing a danger sign – it needs only one module to go under the radar for catastrophe to strike.

Conclusion

It is time NIA, ATS and other law enforcement agencies take a long hard look at their ‘deradicalisation’ programs for such youth, and judiciary needs to ensure that punishment meted out to first-time offenders acts as a deterrent to others harboring dreams of a global Caliphate including Bharat. Politicians who believe that the solution is to put Quran in one hand and computer in the other, are also sadly mistaken.

Giving scholarships to Muslim students or increasing their representation in UPSC will backfire spectacularly till the time the real antidote to de-radicalise Muslim Indian society is taken: crack down on the lakhs of maulvis, imams and madrassas, and the established seminaries and institutions like Deoband, Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamaat-e-Ulema-Hind, Ahl-e-Hadith, Tablighi Jamaat, AIMPLB, PFI which spread radical teachings and create the enabling environment for terror.


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