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SIMI and IM members drawn to Indian wing of IS

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Islamic State

New Delhi: An Indian terror group which pledges allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) is a reorganised group of the virtual Indian Mujahideen and SIMI elements. According to intelligence sources, it recruits new members in order to carry out a chain of terror strikes across the country.

This fact came out during the questioning of 14 suspected Islamic State (IS) sympathisers who were arrested last week from 12 places in six cities in a synchronised raid conducted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the sources added.

Those inspired by the IS ideology were hooked by Yusuf-al-Hind who, the Indian security agencies believe, is former Indian Mujaheedin (IM) member Shafi Armar, a resident of Bhatkal in Karnataka.

Armar, now believed to be in the Islamic State-held area along the border of Iraq and Syria, formed ‘Janood-ul-Khalifa-e-Hind’ and recruited Mumbai-based 33-year-old Mudabbir Mushtaq Shaikh as ‘Amir’ (chief) of the group.

Official sources to the investigation said that Armar also recruited his brother Sultan and others who had worked for Indian Mujahideen and the now-banned Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).

“Apart from former IM and SIMI members, Armar chose those who are basically inspired by the IS ideology. He first recruited his close aides and then inspired them to recruit more supporters,” an official, on condition of anonymity.

“They used social networking sites and made calls through the internet (using VoIP – Voice over Internet Protocol) to activate the sleeper cells of IM and SIMI,” the official said.

Another intelligence source declining to be identified said that the outfit members were directed to carry out strikes in multiple cities, including Hyderabad in Telangana, Bengaluru, Manglore and Tumkur in Karnataka, Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, and Aurangabad and Mumbai in Maharashtra.

“They were asked to organise training camps like how to use fire arms before the attack. They were also trying to establish channels for procuring explosives and weapons,” the official source said.

The leadership of Janood-ul-Khalifa-e-Hind, active since April 2015, was following the IM and SIMI set-ups by choosing their organised central, state and city level core groups, the official said.

The 14 men, allegedly influenced by IS and arrested by the NIA, are also said to have revealed that the 20-year-old Uttar Pradesh-based Mohammed Aleem was chosen as Naib Amir, the second-in-command of the group after Mudabbir.

The sources said Karnataka resident Najmul Huda was the military commander and 24-year-old Hyderabadi Mohammed Nafees Khan was the Finance Chief of the outfit.

All these major group leaders were arrested along with their aides Mohammed Shareef Moinuddin Khan, Mohammed Afzal, Syed Mujahid, Mohammed Obedullah Khan, Abu Anas, Asif Ali, Suhail Ahmed, Muhammad Abdul Ahad, Mohammad Hussain Khan, and Imran Khan.(IANS)

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National Investigation Agency Arrests one in Kerala Terror Camp Case

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Kerala Terror camp
The person arrested was identified as Azharudeen aka Azhar, 24, a resident of Narath in Kerala. ians

New Delhi, Oct 10: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Tuesday said it has arrested one accused of organising Kerala Terror Camp Case in Kannur district in 2013.

The person arrested was identified as Azharudeen aka Azhar, 24, a resident of Narath in Kerala.

An NIA official told IANS that Azhar was arrested on Monday night. He would be produced before the trial court in Ernakulam later on Tuesday.

The counter-terror agency said the arrest involved April 23, 2013, case when the secret training camp was organised by Thanal Foundation Trust inside one of its building to impart training in using of swords and explosives.

On January 20, 2016, the National Investigation Agency Special court had found 21 persons of the Popular Front of India (PFI) guilty of the charges including criminal conspiracy, membership of unlawful assembly, possession of arms and explosive substances, inciting communal disharmony, assertions prejudicial to national integration besides organising the terrorist camp.

The case was first registered by the state police, before it was taken over by the NIA in August 2013.(IANS)

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Terror Has a New Name : Former al-Qaida Members Launch New Militant Group ‘Ansar al-Sharia Pakistan’

Inspired by Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida’s slain founder, the group has vowed to continue its struggle through “jihad” against “infidel and apostates”

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al-Qaida
A Pakistani militant holds a rocket-propelled grenade in Shawal, in Pakistan's tribal region of Waziristan,

Karachi, September 11, 2017 : A new al-Qaida-inspired militant group, which has recently emerged in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi claims to act as a platform for militants who have grown disaffected with the Islamic State militant group (IS) in the country.

The group, Ansar al-Sharia Pakistan, was reportedly formed by two former al-Qaida members who had severed ties with the organization in early 2017. Since then, the group has been involved in several attacks in Karachi, according to Pakistani counterterrorism authorities.

“The Ansar al-Sharia group started killings in Karachi since the beginning of this year and claimed responsibility for killing an army officer on Faisal Highway [in Karachi],” Major General Mohammad Saeed, the head of Rangers paramilitary security force in Karachi, told local media. He added the group has been focusing attacks on “the police only.”

The group was allegedly created to operate as a platform for militants who have parted ways with IS in the country, it said in an online statement. It claimed to be active in several parts of the country.

“We give glad tidings to Muslim Ummah that a large number of Mujahideen from Karachi, Punjab and tribal areas are leaving ranks of IS and announce disassociation with [it],” the group said in an announcement through a Twitter account, adding that IS has “spread differences” and “secession instead of unity.”

The group has vowed to continue its struggle through “jihad” against “infidel and apostates.”

Though the newly-emerged group asserts no official affiliation with al-Qaida and other foreign militant organizations, the group said its ideology is inspired by Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida’s slain founder.

VOA was unable to independently verify the authenticity of the Twitter account.

According to the counterterrorism department of Karachi police, Ansar al-Sharia has a presence in areas between Sindh and Baluchistan provinces.

“Unfortunately, according to the names that have come up in the investigation, their kill team has three young men who have masters [degrees] in applied physics,” Maj. Gen. Saeed said.

Pakistani media reported the terror outfit also has female members. Police have reportedly arrested four women, including a doctor, suspected of membership in the group.

Pakistani authorities have vowed action to seize members of the group in the country, including in Karachi.

ALSO READ Study shows that Islamic State terror cells in Europe are led by former al-Qaida terrorists

A police officer has reportedly been arrested for links with an alleged Ansar-al-Sharia member in Karachi, Pakistani media reported.

Al-Qaida’s branch in South Asia, known as al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), has been active in the region. Several militant groups in Pakistan that had an ideological association with bin Laden’s al-Qaida, have pledged allegiance to AQIS.

Much of AQIS’s power is concentrated in Karachi and IS has also claimed presence in in Pakistan’s largest city. (VOA)

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Ground Report: How ISIS is ruining lives of people in Syria and Iraq

For the families in Sarran, the fear of ISIS has now been replaced by the wreckage of a displaced economy left behind by the terrorists.

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End of Islamic State rule in Saran
In Sarran, no lives were completely untouched by tragedy at the hands of IS militants Sarran, Syria, Aug. 18, 2017. (H. Murdock/VOA)
  • IS rule in the city of Sarran ended eight months ago 
  • The IS did not murder or behead residents in Sarran, but no lives were completely untouched by tragedy
  • Displaced families from Raqqa currently survive in refugee camps in the area that run short of basic amenities like food, clean water, and medicine

Syria, August 24, 2017: For 100-year-old Tamam Shaheen, the day Islamic State militants took over her village was not particularly memorable.

“One night Free Syrian Army rebels were occupying our village and the next day it just changed,” she said, sitting on the concrete floor of a one-room house with an unlit cigarette in her hand. “All those bearded people were here.”

During their rule over her village, Sarran, has militants ruined the local economy and forced villagers to adhere to dress codes. They tried, unsuccessfully, to enforce a strict no-smoking policy, but none of this impacted Shaheen’s life greatly.

ALSO READ: Civilian Deaths Surge in Raqqa as Islamic State (ISIS) Tactics Slow US-backed Advances

But even the most benign corners of formerly IS-held territory were not spared personal tragedies. Shaheen’s grandson is now imprisoned amid the post-IS chaos, accused of fighting with the militant group.

“Militants ordered me to wear a veil on my face,” she said. “But I rebuked them. I told them ‘It is not your job to tell me what to wear!’”

Authorities holding 22-year-old Abdulrahman now, she said, are not so easy to rebuke.

The arrest

In other parts of IS-controlled Syria and Iraq, IS beat husbands and fathers of women who refused to cover their faces. Locals have been imprisoned or even killed for smoking cigarettes.

Islamic state rule in syria
One-hundred-year-old Tamam Shaheen refuted IS orders to veil her face or quit smoking, but in the wake of IS rule, her grandson is now accused of having fought alongside the group, in Sarran, Syria, Aug. 18, 2017. (H. Murdock/VOA)

Militants are now fighting to the death in the nearest large city, Raqqa, 60 kilometers away, but eight months ago in Sarran, IS just left.

Around the same time, Abudulrahman was returning to the village when he was arrested, according to his mother, Wahda Mustafa. The family and neighbors say he is disabled from a car accident and may have accidentally agreed he was guilty of crimes he didn’t commit.

“My son was coming home from Raqqa but the roads were blocked,” said Wahda Mustafa. “They picked him up at a checkpoint, but I don’t know why.”

Stigma after Raqqa flight

During the course of Shaheen’s 100 years, Sarran’s population grew from about four families to roughly 700 people. As IS is slowly being defeated in the region, the village is growing again.

Across a brown field of dust, displaced families from Raqqa crowd into a schoolhouse. Refugee camps in the area are notoriously short of food, clean water and medicine, baking in the desert in the hot summer sun.

Islamic state rule in Syria
Farming comprises the main industry for many Syrian villagers which yields just enough profits for survival. However, high taxes and corruption under IS rule created increased difficulties than extreme ideologies for many rural farmers, near Sarran, Syria, Aug. 18, 2017. (H. Murdock/VOA)

But families say they pay a high price for the small comforts of settling in a village rather than a camp after fleeing IS. The displaced Raqqa residents are noticeably more conservative than the villagers, with the women remaining secluded inside, while local women in colorful dresses cook and smoke cigarettes in public.

Raqqa families are shunned and often presumed to be IS supporters, despite multiple investigations concluding they are innocent, according to Khalid Abdullah, 40, a former oil worker from Raqqa and a father of 11.

“I saw beheadings and hands cut off in the city,” he said under an awning near the school. “It was raining mortars when we ran away. But still, they call my son ‘IS’ when he goes out.”

IS Corruption

The more lasting tragedies touching the lives of the people of Sarran come not from IS extremism, but from ordinary corruption. Before the war, the Syrian government had mandated that wealthy landowners in the area dole out portions of their fields to local farmers.

Islamic state rule in syria
Camps for displaced persons in Syria are short of food, clean water and health care, with some fleeing urban families saying they prefer to face stigma in villages than endure hardship in camps, in Ain Issa, Syria, Aug. 17, 2017. (H. Murdock/VOA)

The farmers survived by working the land and reaping the profits. Under IS, bribes were paid and profits from the land reverted back to the rich, according to Ayman Kalaf, 19, one of Shaheen’s many grandsons.

Surrounded by other farmers, who nodded in agreement as he spoke, Kalaf described how under IS, his poor village became even poorer and families are still struggling to recover.

“Long ago this area was under a feudal system, with all of the valuable farms owned by the rich,” he said. “But modern governments required owners to divide some of their lands among local farmers. When IS came in, they gave the land back to the rich.”

And while their suffering may not be as dramatic or even traumatic as the suffering of families living under siege or hunted and sometimes slaughtered by IS, villagers say they already lived on the edge of survival in the best of times, and they barely made it through their time under IS.

“I have to take care of my house and children, and I work as a farmer,” said Umm Mohammad, a local women’s activist. “We build our own houses with bricks we make from the earth. Life here is hard.” (VOA)