Areeb Majeed, the arrested Mumbai student-turned-Islamic State (IS) fighter, was given $2,000 by the terrorist group to get himself treated after being injured in combat, counter-terror sources involved in his interrogation told HT.
“We have reason to suspect what Majeed has told us so far. Not only was he given money by IS fighters, he was allowed to leave territory controlled by them. It is quite possible he may have contacted his father on their instructions. We need to verify and re-verify all his claims. That’s why the NIA was allowed to register a case against him,” said a central counter-terror officer requesting anonymity.
The officer added that it was also possible that he may have been given a task in India by IS.
“Majeed has told his interrogators the IS does all its recruitment online. Its spotters visit jihadi websites and contact possible candidates through social media. That was how he was spotted,” said another officer.
Majeed travelled with three friends — Shaheen Tanki, Fahad Sheikh and Aman Tandel, all from Maharashtra’s Kalyan town — to Iraq in May on the pretext of a pilgrimage and was taken to the IS stronghold of al-Raqqa, the officer said. All four were trained in handling weapons like AK-47 and explosives.
“During combat, he was shot in the chest while a second bullet grazed him. When a medical facility where he was being treated was destroyed in an air raid, he crossed over to Turkey with other IS cadre,” the official said.
Majeed then got in touch with his father, saying he wanted to come back. He landed in Mumbai on Friday under NIA escort. Maharashtra Police sources said he was still highly indoctrinated and had told his interrogators that he believed the IS’ actions were justified.
Based on his interrogation, the NIA is also looking into a travel firm that facilitated the four men’s trip, agency sources said, adding that the firm — with a presence in many Indian cities — helped with visa arrangements. NIA prosecutor Geeta Godambe said the agency wanted to unearth the entire conspiracy.
In court, Majeed, dressed in a dark brown Pathan suit, was asked by the judge why he had not hired a lawyer. “I was in NIA custody and didn’t get the time to hire a lawyer,” he answered.
Addressing a conference of police chiefs from across the country in the Assamese capital, Union home minister Rajnath Singh touched on the threat from IS, saying, “Some Indian youths have been attracted to IS. We cannot take it lightly.”
(Inputs from HTC Mumbai)