Putting an end to month-long speculation, Kerala police on Monday confirmed that some of the missing Muslim youth from the state had joined the extremist outfit Islamic State (IS).
In a statement submitted in Ernakulam sessions court, seeking the remand of two people arrested from Mumbai in connection with the missing youth case, police said Arshid Qureshi and Rizwan Khan played a key role in recruiting for the IS and sending them abroad.
Khan and Qureshi were arrested in a joint operation of the Maharashtra ATS and Kerala special investigation team.
This is the first time police have confirmed the IS link.
In its report, police said they have definite information that Qureshi and Khan converted many young people and radicalised them. Police claimed the duo also facilitated their trip to join the IS, but did not provide details about the mode of travel and their final destination.
Some incriminating documents, including marriage certificates, were reportedly seized from Khan.
The court has remanded the duo to two-week police custody.
At least 21 people, including six women and two children, had gone missing from the state last month, sending shockwaves across the country. Most of the missing persons are well-educated and hailed from upper middle class families. Among them were two men and three women who had converted to Islam.
Intelligence agencies later traced some of the calls from the missing people to Afghanistan.
Qureshi, an associate of controversial preacher Zakir Naik, was arrested in connection with the disappearance of Merin aka Mariyam, a resident of Kochi. Merin’s brother had filed a police complaint claiming Qureshi had tried to convert him to Islam during a meeting in Mumbai last year. Qureshi had revealed Khan’s name during questioning.
There are unconfirmed reports that the two converted more than 500 youths in South Indian states and facilitated their arms training. They were arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
Earlier, the father of another missing youth said his son was in constant touch with Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF). Though the IRF confirmed that Qureshi was working as a relationship manager, it feigned ignorance about his alleged IS ties.