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A file photo of a member loyal to the Islamic State waving an IS flag in Raqqa on 29 June 2014. Photo: Reuters
A file photo of a member loyal to the Islamic State waving an IS flag in Raqqa on 29 June 2014. Photo: Reuters

Six Indian Islamic State recruits killed in conflict identified, say intel agencies

Report compiled by multiple agencies, three of those killed fighting for IS are from Karnataka, while one each is from UP, Telangana and Maharashtra

New Delhi: Indian intelligence agencies, with assistance from foreign counterparts, have managed to establish the identity of the six citizens who have died fighting for terror outfit Islamic State (IS) so far, and uncovered how recruits from India are considered inferior to those from Arab nations.

A senior intelligence official, who did not wish to be identified, refused to give details of the foreign agencies that are assisting India by providing inputs regarding Indians, or even expatriates in the Gulf countries, who have joined the ranks of IS.

According to a detailed report compiled by multiple agencies, three of those killed fighting for IS are from Karnataka, while one each is from Uttar Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra.

The deceased have been identified as Athif Vaseem Mohammed from Adilabad, Telangana; Mohammed Umar Subhan from Shivaji Nagar, Bengaluru; Maulana Abdul Kabir Sultan Armar from Bhatkal, Karnataka; Saheem Farooque Tanki from Thane, Maharashtra; Faiz Masood from Bengaluru and Mohammed Sajid alias Bada Sajid from Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh.

Of the dead, Bada Sajid was one of the main operatives of terrorist outfit Indian Mujahideen who escaped to Pakistan after the Batla House encounter in Delhi in September 2008, in which Mohan Chand Sharma, an inspector of Delhi Police’s Special Cell, was killed.

The encounter dealt a severe blow to Indian Mujahideen’s operations in the country.

“We had information that Bada Sajid and at least two more operatives of Indian Mujahideen who had escaped to Pakistan after the Batla House encounter had moved to Iraq to fight for IS. Of the total 23 Indians who joined the outfit in Iraq and Syria, five are from Karnataka, four each from Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, three from Tamil Nadu, two from Uttar Pradesh and one from Jammu and Kashmir,’’ the official cited above added.

According to the report, reviewed by Mint, the IS destroys the passports of Indian and other foreign nationals on arrival in Iraq and Syria to ensure that they don’t return to their country.

“There are credible inputs that IS considers South Asian fighters—from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh—as well as those from some other countries like Nigeria and Sudan to be inferior to Arab fighters," the report states.

In fact, Areeb Majeed, a resident of Kalyan near Mumbai who was brought back from Syria by Indian security agencies, disclosed during custodial interrogation how IS considered Indians to be less martial when compared to Arab fighters. Majeed claimed that he was made to do menial tasks like cleaning toilets.

“Intelligence inputs suggest that these so-called inferior fighters from India and the subcontinent are often tricked into suicide attacks... These fighters are given a vehicle loaded with explosives and asked to go close to a targeted destination. On reaching, they are asked to call a particular number from the mobile phone for a local contact who will meet them and explain the mission in detail. But, in effect, the mobile phone is actually a trigger device and as soon as the number is dialled, the vehicle explodes... The Arab fighters are often given better equipment, accommodation and salary, while those from India and the subcontinent are housed in small barracks," the report adds.

“There is a disproportionately high level of casualties among those from the subcontinent and African countries like Nigeria and Sudan who are sent to the frontline as the first chain of foot soldiers. Arab fighters, who are better trained and experienced, are positioned mostly behind these fighters. This explains why so many Indians have died despite being a much smaller contingent," it states.

A.K. Verma, former chief of external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing, said IS is ruthless in its approach and will sacrifice anybody, including its own cadre, for achieving its mission.

“It is good that Indian agencies are so closely monitoring IS activities and, importantly, are collaborating with foreign agencies as the war against IS has to be fought at a global level,’’ he added.

Another senior government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that almost all the 23 Indians were attracted to IS through its “sophisticated propaganda techniques on the Internet".

“Reports also suggest that recruits from the subcontinent and Africa are housed together and kept under surveillance by what is known as the Islamic State police, which has members only from Tunisia, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Syria," the official said.

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