Indian intelligence officials said Monday they were working to verify reports that the alleged head of an Islamic State cell and principal recruiter for IS in India had been killed in a U.S. airstrike in Syria.
Mohammad Shafi Armar (alias Yousuf al-Hindi), who comes from the south Indian state of Karnataka, was killed in a drone strike “a few days ago,” according to a report published by the Times of India on Monday that cited top government sources.
An official at India’s Intelligence Bureau (IB) told BenarNews that although it had received an intelligence report of Armar’s death from American intelligence officials on Sunday, the bureau was cross-checking to verify the information.
“Prima facie, it seems he [Armar] is dead. But we can’t say anything for sure until we verify [the information],” said the official who requested anonymity.
“The confirmation process may take some time because getting information from Syria, which is an IS stronghold, is not easy,” the official added.
Armar, 26 (pictured below), is believed to be the common link among at least 25 people arrested by Indian security agencies over the past year for showing leanings toward the Middle East-based terror outfit, according to intelligence sources.
The Times of India claimed to have confirmed the information about his death from three top government and intelligence sources.
The alleged IS sympathizers told investigators during interrogation that they were radicalized and recruited by Armar through online platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Skype, sources in the National Investigation Agency (NIA) told BenarNews.
Armar allegedly took over the reins of IS’s India offshoot – Ansar ul-Tawhid (AuT) – after his brother, Abdul Khadir Sultan Armar, 38, was killed in an airstrike in Kobane, Syria, in March 2015.
Armar recently dismantled AuT and renamed it as Junud al Khalifa-e-Hind, which translates to “soldiers of the Indian caliphate,” with an aim to establish an IS unit in every Indian state, according to intelligence agencies.
Following the death of Armar’s brother last year, their mother, Hajira, told The Indian Express that her sons had stopped communicating with her in 2010, five years after the brothers left for Oman.
A police official in Bhatkal, the Armar family’s hometown about 525 km (326 miles) from the Karnataka capital Bengaluru, told BenarNews that Armar’s mother and father, Shabbir Hussain, had relocated to Dubai within the past year. BenarNews was unable to locate Armar’s parents for comment.
A total of 23 Indians have left India to fight for the IS in Iraq and Syria, according to an intelligence report released last year. Of them, six had died in battle before reports of Armar’s death emerged.
While at least 25 suspected IS recruits have been arrested by Indian security forces, more than 150 are under surveillance for showing sympathy toward the militant organization, according to officials. (Benar News)