The “radicalisation” of four youths from Kalyan, who have allegedly flown into Iraq to join the war for establishing a Muslim caliphate, is suspected to have taken place not only online but also through a radical sect active in the Thane-Raigad corridor, months before they undertook the trip.
Arif Majid, Fahad Tanvir Sheikh, Aman Naim Tandel and Shaheen Farooqi Tanki, all from Kalyan, are believed to have joined the Sunni militia group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant(ISIS), which has been gaining control of parts of Iraq in its battle against the Shia-dominated state.
The ISIS has since renamed it as just Islamic State (IS).
The four youth have been missing since the last week of May, following which their families registered missing persons complaints.
Highly placed source in a state intelligence agency, which has been tracking their reported disappearance since last month, had conducted a check on their antecedents and came out with the findings.
“We have identified those local elements responsible for their radicalisation. We suspect many more could have been brainwashed by these ideologues for jihad in the distant land and are trying to prevent any further exports,” the source said.
Meanwhile, the state's premier anti-terror unit, the anti terrorism squad (ATS) has also joined in the task of tracking down the back-room operatives responsible for the ideological indoctrination of innocent minds.
“We are keeping a close watch on the situation and everything possible is being done to seize the trend,” said Himanshu Roy, ATS chief.
Investigation so far has revealed that the four youths were part of a group of 40 who took an Etihad flight from Mumbai to Baghdad on a pilgrimage to the holy shrines in Iraq on May 25. The group was supposed to return to India on June 2.
“However, on May 30, the four parted from the group, after spending a few days with the group, and took a taxi to a city which had just fallen to the ISIS. They never came back,” the source said adding that in all probability they have joined the insurgents.
“Dad I am good. I will return home after earning money to financially support you,” were the last words that Naeem Tandel heard, when the spoke to his son Aman soon after he went 'missing'.
When informed about the reports of his son having joined the terror group, Tandel, who works in Mumbai, said, “People say a lot of things. How can I stop them? I have full faith in the police and I will only trust whatever they have to say.”
Similar is the reaction of the family and relatives of the other youngsters who are still not willing to believe the ‘theory’ that their children have joined the terror group.
Iftikhaar Khan, uncle of Fahad Shaikh, 24, said, “There are several religious places there (Iraq) and they could have gone there?”
However, the family members do not have an answer when asked why the youngsters would hide the fact that they have applied for a visa and tickets, a process that would have taken several weeks.
While Fahad went missing from work, Arif Majeed, the third youngster and an engineering student, went missing after informing his family that he was going to his friend's house to study as his exams were going on.