Islamic State (ISIS) recruits in India wanted to take advantage of the student movement that broke out in several cities after the arrest of JNU student union president Kanhaiya Kumar.
On February 19, when Kanhaiya was in Tihar jail on sedition charges and students of several universities were holding demonstrations demanding his release, ISIS’s Ahmad Ali asked 19-year-old Ashiq Ahmad alias Raja of Hooghly, West Bengal, to infiltrate the movement and burn vehicles and oil tankers using petrol.
This has been revealed in the statements of three recruits of India’s ISIS wing — Junud al Khalifa-e-Hind (JKH) — Ashiq Ahmad alias Raja, Mohammad Abdul Ahad and Mohammad Afzal.
The NIA says the idea was to further agitate the students so that it creates disorder in the country.
Their statements, made under Section 164 of CrPC, was exclusively accessed by TOI . The statements of three IS members have been recorded for the first time by any agency. Their testimony proves the creation of JKH and their meetings in Tumukur and Bengaluru (Karnataka), West Bengal and Punjab.
In his statement, Ashiq said Ahmed Ali, who claimed that he was the boss of Ansar-ut Tawhid fi Bilad al-Hind (AuT), contacted him on February 19 through his ID on Trillion app. Some 14 members of the IS had been caught by the NIA by this time. “He told me that agencies are keeping a tab on us. He told me that a student movement is happening in the country and that we should enter and put vehicles, oil tankers on fire,” Ashiq said.
Agencies suspect that Ali is none other than Shafi Armar, the head of ISIS in India who is learnt to have died in a recent US drone attack. Ashiq was caught by the NIA on February 22. AuT is connected to ISIS and the outfit opened JKH in India and planned to have a unit in every state, as claimed by Bengaluru- based Ahad.
Ashiq said he was asked to “learn spying, swimming and drawing maps”, and that their first target would be “Shias”, while they also planned to “free former IM chief Yasin Bhatkal from jail”.
“When I asked Ali for a pistol and sent him a picture of a temple near my place (in Hooghly) where we could have carried out a blast to impress him, he told me that we will not do anything small,” Ashiq added. Ashiq, who was doing his mechanical engineering, said he was especially drawn towards “jihad” after breaking up with his Hindu girlfriend as she told him that she couldn’t leave her religion for him. “I was thinking of changing my religion and then going to her parents,” he said.
Ahad said he “was against the idea of jihad as he wanted to help poor people of Muslim community, which was not JKH’s plan”. A science graduate from the US, Ahad worked in Singapore, Saudi Arabia and UAE before he came in touch with ISIS members. “In December 2014, I visited Turkey as I wanted to go to Syria and see the reality on the ground. I was looking at the possibility of opening an NGO to help the victims of war but I was deported to India,” he added.