Tuesday May 21, 2019
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Growing echoes of ISIS in India

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By Rajesh Ghosh

After the alleged ISIS recruit Areeb Majeed’s bail plea was rejected a month earlier by a special NIA court, the External Affairs ministry sought his internet and financial information from four West Asian countries and a European state.

Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Turkey and Luxemburg have been sent requests seeking details of his travel and stay related financial transactions. They have also been urged to share all pertinent internet activities undertaken in these countries.

Although a relatively less number of Indian youths have been reported to be either actively engaged in jihadist activities in West Asia or are directly in touch with recruits, the Indian intelligence has not taken them lightly. There is a looming fear of ‘Lone Wolf’ attacks within the Indian territory and attacks by returning radicalized jihadists hardened by their experience in the battlefields of Iraq and Syria.

Indian Intelligence is also wary of the growing interest of India in Jihadist circles. In a video message released in late 2014, the Al-Qaeda supremo Al-Zawahiri called on Muslims ‘to wage jihad against enemies, to liberate their land’ as he announced the opening of a so-called ‘Indian branch’. Earlier this year ISIS flags were seen fluttering at various protests in Kashmir which send chills down the spine of intelligence agencies.

ISIS, also derogatorily called Daesh among many circles, has also increased activities in India’s neighbourhood of Bangladesh. Many attacks including a deadly attack in a Shia mosque and an attack on an Italian priest have been claimed by the ISIS.  There is growing fear within Indian Intelligence circles of the spillover of this growing ISIS footprint in Bangladesh.

While India’s fears are legitimate any exaggeration of the ISIS threat must be avoided. Indian stability is more threatened by its homegrown radicalized youths and Maoist activities. However, the intelligence agencies must stay on their toes to prevent any large-scale Paris-like attack in vulnerable Indian cities. (Image: Patrika)

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ISIS Announces New India and Pakistan Provinces

The "Islamic State Pakistan Province," in communiques issued via its global propaganda mouthpiece Amaq News Agency, took credit for killing a Pakistani police officer

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ISIS, New India, Pakistan, Provinces
FILE- An Islamic State flag is captured in this photo illustration. VOA

The Islamic State group says it has established a “province” in Pakistan, days after the terrorist organization used the name “Hind Province” for an attack it claimed in the India-ruled portion of the disputed Kashmir region.

Both of the divisions formerly fell under the “Khorasan Province” or ISKP — the name the Middle East-based terrorist group uses for its regional operations launched in early 2015 from bases in the border region of Afghanistan — according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist threats.

The “Islamic State Pakistan Province,” in communiques issued via its global propaganda mouthpiece Amaq News Agency, took credit for killing a Pakistani police officer this week in Mastung, and it reported shooting at a gathering of militants linked to the outlawed Pakistani Taliban militant group in Quetta.

Both the districts are located in violence-hit Baluchistan province, which borders Afghanistan and Iran. Several separatist Baluch groups and sectarian organizations also are active in the province.

ISIS, New India, Pakistan, Provinces
FILE – Rescue workers and army soldiers gather at the site of a blast at a vegetable market in Quetta, Pakistan, April 12, 2019. VOA

There was no immediate reaction available from the Pakistani government.

Islamabad maintains there is no “organized” presence of IS in the country. Pakistani military officials say an ongoing nationwide military-led “intelligence-based operation” is primarily aimed at denying space in Pakistan to extremists linked to any terrorist groups.

The group released no details about the boundaries of the territory it is now claiming. In previous Islamic State propaganda, all of Afghanistan and most of Pakistan, parts of modern Iran and Central Asia make up the so-called Khorasan Province. IS also has spoken about creating its own chapter for the Indian subcontinent.

Marketplace expolsion

IS also took responsibility for last month’s suicide blast in a marketplace in Quetta city that killed 20 people and left nearly 50 injured. The targets of the attack were members of the ethnic Hazara Shiite Muslim community.

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On Friday, IS declared in a statement via Amaq the creation of “Hind Province,” while taking responsibility for clashes with Indian forces in Amshipora in the Shopian district of Kashmir.

IS has increased attacks lately in the region, including taking credit for the group’s Easter Sunday first-ever bombings in Sri Lanka that killed more than 250 people.

Observers say altering its provincial structure and fragmenting the “Khorasan Province” by IS could be aimed at bolstering its credentials after losing its “caliphate” in Syria and Iran, where the terrorists at one point used to control thousands of miles of territory.

“As ISIS [one of several acronyms used for IS] seeks to build and restructure foundations of insurgencies across the globe after its losses in Iraq and Syria, it is attempting to recruit also from Pakistan, a country with an existing jihadi militant population,” tweeted Rita Katz, the director of the SITE Intelligence Group.

ISIS, New India, Pakistan, Provinces
the terrorist organization used the name “Hind Province” for an attack it claimed in the India-ruled portion of the disputed Kashmir region. Wikimedia Commons

The suspected rebranding of ISKP comes as the United Nations earlier this week designated the “Khorasan Province” as a global terrorist, noting the group was formed in January 2015 by former members of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) who pledged allegiance to Abu Baker al-Baghdadi, leader of the ISIS/ISIL.

The United States has already blacklisted ISKP as a foreign terrorist organization, and American troops are conducting regular airstrikes against the group’s bases in Afghanistan with the help of local forces, killing thousands of militants.

Analysts say American counterterrorism airstrikes and clashes with the Afghan Taliban have prevented ISKP from expanding its regional influence and the rebranding strategy could have stemmed from those challenges.

“Khorasan chapter has been struggling to establish a footprint in Afghanistan and the region in general, and they may be following al-Qaida’s strategy to create regional affiliates,” says Muhammad Amir Rana, who heads Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute for Peace and Studies (PIPS). (VOA)