An arrested Kabul-bound woman’s disclosure has prompted police surveillance on some 19 people in Kerala and neighbouring Karnataka, after she alleged they attended “jihadi classes” by a suspected Islamic State terrorist group recruiter.
Yasmin Ahmad, a 28-year-old schoolteacher in Kerala, told investigators that Abdul Rashid, a fugitive IS recruiter from Kerala who is now operating from Afghanistan, indoctrinated about 40 people.
“We have identified some of those who attended radicalization sessions conducted by Rashid in Thrikkaripur in north Kerala’s Kasargode. We are closely watching movements of some of them,” a source in the Kerala Police special investigation team (SIT) said.
She was arrested last week at Delhi airport en route to Kabul, where she was to join Rashid, who is believed to be behind the disappearance of 21 youth from the southern state in May and June.
Police have put the remaining 19-odd suspected recruits on their watch list.
Investigators said some of the radicalized people from Rashid’s “terror class” might have backed out and decided to lie low as the disappearance of the 21 triggered a national outcry.
Yasmin too was supposed to leave the country along with the group of 21, but delayed travel documents for her four-year-old child held her back.
Born and brought up in Saudi Arabia where her parents were settled, she came to Kerala three years ago with husband Syed Ahmad after getting a job in Peace International School in Malappuram.
The woman met Rashid at the school, where he used to train teachers. Rashid soon befriended the couple, and a relationship grew between him and Yasmin after her husband fell out with her and left the country.
Yasmin is proficient in English, and has a religious bent of mind. As such she got immediately attracted towards Rashid’s ultra-radical teachings, investigators said.
Rashid used to conduct the sessions in the guise of Quran classes, where he briefed the recruits about the IS. He regularly read the IS magazine, Dabiq, and used material from online propaganda to radicalise youth, an SIT source said.
He went to Afghanistan later to become a lynchpin of the IS recruitment drive.
Yasmin, in the meantime, kept in touch with him through text messages. She was arrested after police intercepted her communication with Rashid.
“Yasmin is not cooperating with the investigation. She often argues that she hasn’t done anything wrong in the country and her aborted trip to Afghanistan was part of her religious duty,” the source said.
Intelligence agencies were probing the funding network of the terror group, as Rs 2 lakh was reportedly deposited in Yasmin’s account two weeks before her arrest. Also, a possible link with a Kuwaiti man, who paid for the trip of several IS-bound Indians last year, has been looked into.
Arib Majeed, an IS deserter currently in a Mumbai jail, has said that Kuwaiti businessman Abdullah Hadi was his handler and he funded his team’s trip to Iraq and Syria.
Kuwaiti police had arrested Hadi, and a National Investigation Agency team from India would soon leave for the west Asian country to question him.
The anti-terrorism agency, formed after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, will eventually take over from Kerala police the probe into the suspected IS activities in the southern state.