Azhar Iqbal, a suspected member of the India wing of the Islamic State (IS), studied at the famous Islamic seminary Darul Uloom, Deoband, for seven years before being suspended for indiscipline in December last year, sources told HT.
Iqbal, 23, was arrested from Bhopal on Monday by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which has so far arrested 15 people for their ties with the terror outfit.
“Iqbal allegedly was in the higher category of members of the group — Junoon al Khilafa-e-Hind — as he was tasked with finding new recruits. It is learnt that he was in touch with Yusuf al-Hindi alias Shafi Armar, who originally was an Indian Mujahideen member but later shifted to the IS-held areas in Syria and Iraq,” said a home ministry official requesting anonymity. “Iqbal knew at least two of the four suspects arrested by the Delhi police from Uttarakhand a few weeks back. He studied in the Deoband seminary.”
Ashraf Usmani, spokesperson of Darul Uloom, Deoband, said Iqbal hadn’t displayed signs of extremist views while at the seminary.
“Though we never found him to be radical in his views, but there were a few serious complaints of indiscipline against him. He was studying to be an Alim (a learned man) at Deoband from 2008 onwards. Due to indiscipline, he was suspended from the seminary,” said Usmani.
Investigators have found that the head of the group, Mumbai resident Muddabir Sheikh, who was anointed Ameer-e-Hind, also visited Deoband to meet Iqbal.
The federal anti-terror probe agency has found that the India-based terror group was brought together by Shafi Armar. The Armar brothers, originally from Bhatkal in Karnataka, had gone to Iraq and Syria to fight for the IS. While Sultan Armar is believed to have been killed in Syria, Shafi Armar has emerged as the key recruiter for the IS in India.