NEW DELHI: Indian intelligence agencies have sounded alarm bells over “increasing footprints of the Islamic State (IS) across southern India", nearly a month after eight coordinated blasts killed at least 253 people across Sri Lanka, for which the IS claimed responsibility.
The Sri Lanka Easter Day blasts had brought the focus back on the growing presence of the IS in south Asia and intelligence units suspect that the terrorist group can be expected to carry out fresh attacks.
“There has been significant and growing movement of Islamic State cells and workers in pockets of Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Kerala," according to intelligence inputs. This indicates that “recruitment at the local level continues unabated".
“These IS operatives are the ones who have returned to their countries from Syria on being chased out by the American forces. Over here, they are being monetarily supported by organizations outside India to cause disruption in the south Asian region," said a senior intelligence officer, on condition of anonymity.
The Union home ministry has, however, denied having received any such inputs from any intelligence agency in the country, or having conveyed it to state governments in Tamil Nadu, Telangana or Kerala.
“There is no heightened alert as such but there is a general alert after the Sri Lanka incident. We are keeping a vigil in high footfall areas such as malls, movie theatres and other places. Intelligence inputs from the centre have been similar to all states," said a senior intelligence official in Karnataka.
As many as 7,366 IS recruits—79% men, 4% women, and 17% minors—returned to their respective countries of origin in Asia, according to a report by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation.
The south Asian region accounted for 447 IS recruits, South-East Asia for 1,063, central Asia for 5,965 and eastern Asia for 1,010.
“We are keeping an eye on all such organizations/groups that have the potential to get attracted to such (IS) ideologies. We have a strong network of intelligence in both the cities and districts. So far, we have been able to track individuals and take action," said Jitender, additional director general of police (law and order), Telangana.
Sri Lankan authorities claimed to have eliminated all those who were either involved in or had executed the blast. Indian intelligence and investigation units—especially the National Investigation Agency (NIA)—has been busting various sleeper cells of the Islamic State in Hyderabad, as well as in Kerala. The focus is on radicalizing and recruiting “trained engineers and youth with a strong knowledge of computer technology."
Another official familiar with the developments said that the cadres in operation in the Indian subcontinent also had close ties with cadres operating in other countries such as Indonesia, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
“These cadres are still receiving training and continue to remain in touch. Tamil Nadu and Kerala are under close watch because a significant movement of cadres has been noted in these areas," the official added.
Sharan Poovanna from Bengaluru and Yunus Y. Lasania from Hyderabad contributed to this story.