A group of alleged Islamic State (IS) sympathisers, conspiring to target police stations in Hyderabad, used a host of encrypted applications, including one developed by al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, in order to keep their communication secure, the National Investigation Agency has said.
Al-Fajr Media Centre distributes al Qaeda’s online propaganda material. Its technical branch al-Fajr Technical Committee was established in 2012. Two years later, it released an Android version of it is encryption programme called Amn al-Mujahid (security of mujahid) for mobile phones.
“Two members of the (IS sympathiser) group, Mohammed Ibrahim Yazdani and Abdulla Bin Ahmed al-Amoodi had downloaded Amn al-Mujahid encryption on their mobile phones,” says the NIA chargesheet against eight members of the group.
Even then, they never discussed their plans on these applications and preferred face-to-face meeting to discuss their targets, the agency noted.
The group also used Tor applications like ‘Orbot’ and ‘Orfox’, which hide a user’s internet usage by bouncing it through a series of computers around the world.
“We will have to continuously update our knowledge and technology to keep track of the suspect communication,” an NIA official said on condition of anonymity.
The chargesheet says two handlers of the group—one of them is suspected to an Indian named Shafi Armar who is originally a native of Bhatkal (Karnataka) and a former member of terror outfit Indian Mujahideen—kept them informed about the latest tools to keep their communication secure. Armar moved to IS-held area in Syria two years back.
The chargesheet says the group members had plans to target policemen and police stations in Hyderabad and used navigation and map application ‘OsmAnd+’ to plot their targets.
One of the group members, Muzaffar Hussain Rizwan was found with a digital document containing three Global Positioning System co-ordinates saved in it. These corresponded to Kamathipura, Afzalganj and Bahadurpura police stations in Hyderabad when plotted on the Google map, says the chargesheet.
Rizwan, during interrogation, confirmed that he was tasked with surveying the police stations.
These coordinates of the police stations were later sent to the IS handler in Syria using Pidgin application which allows users to log into multiple chat accounts simultaneously.
For making Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls, the group was asked to use Nymgo application.
Besides, the group was also using ‘Chatsecure’ and ‘Trillian’, considered secure chat applications, and Tutanota email that provides end-to-end encryption.
According to the NIA, the group was also planning to target religious places in Hyderabad to foment communal tension in the city.