The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is likely to probe the recent disappearance of 21 Islamic State sympathisers from Kerala, according to a senior government official.
Tasked with combating terror, NIA is the “right agency” to investigate into the matter that has “international ramifications”, a home ministry functionary told Hindustan Times.
The news of the men, who are allegedly fascinated by the Islamic State, left for the terrorist group’s heartland in West Asia came out last week after their families in Kasargode and Palakkad districts approached elected representatives and complained about the “missing” youths.
Preliminary inquiries have revealed that one of them, Hafeesuddin Hakeem, contacted his family--to say he was at a place where US and Russian jets were dropping bombs.
Hafeesuddin’s wife Sharifa told investigators that she received a Whatsapp message on June 8 which said war planes were “circling over me”.
Investigators say Hafeesuddin, 23, also invited his parents to the ‘Islamic State’, claiming that it was a land that followed ‘true Islam’ and the sharia legal system.
Investigators suspect that the location Hafeesuddin, a native of Padanna in north Malabar, described indicates that he has reached the IS-held area in Syria along the Middle East. Recently, Russian forces had carried out strikes near Palmyra, Raqqa and Althawra oil fields.
Marwan Bakkar Ismail, another person suspected to be part of the group, told his brother that he has reached the ‘Islamic State’, as it was his “duty to fight for Muslim Ummah (community)”. The sibling works in a multi-national tech company.
According to investigators, Marwan, also aged 23, told his brother that he will “come back to India to continue my fight”.
There are five couples among the 21 persons who have disappeared. Three of those married pairs have a kid each. In four cases, the women converted to Islam from either Hinduism or Christianity. All of them got acquainted to each other while taking a class of religious studies in Kerala’s upstate Malappuram. Together, more than a dozen of them attended a discourse at a mosque.
Investigators say it is still not clear which route they took to reach the IS-held areas. But they have identified a Kannur travel agent from whom at least four of them booked tickets to the Iranian capital of Tehran.