Officials in Maharashtra’s anti-terrorism squad (ATS), which is investigating a slew of cases in which young men and women have allegedly been radicalised by the Islamic State terror group, said on Tuesday that not everyone who had been influenced by the group’s violent ideology is treated the same.
An ATS official said that because joining ISIS is simple – all one needs to do is pledge allegiance to the group online – the extent to which various recruits are radicalised varies, and with it the likelihood that a particular recruit will carry out an attack.
“Most of these youngsters have extreme views. However, they are arrested only if it is determined that they cannot be de-radicalised. In these cases, arrests become necessary as they could carry out a terror attack,” said an ATS official, who did not wish to be named.
The official said one of the suspects arrested by the ATS has told investigators that he and his fellow recruits are fighting to create an Islamic state in India and eliminate all those who don’t share their beliefs. “In most the cases, the potential recruit has already made up him mind to join ISIS, and even if there is some doubt left, ISIS’ foreign handlers in online chatrooms remove it,” added the official.
In the Parbhani case, ATS officials claim, the two men arrested for alleged links with ISIS are highly radicalised. According to the ATS investigation, Naser Bin Yafai Chaus and Shahid Khan had been in touch with their foreign handler for over two years. Chaus, a civil contractor, has a passport and wanted to fight in ISIS-controlled territory, said another ATS official. They were arrested only when the police felt they posed an imminent threat, the official added.
According to the Kerala police, which recently helped the Maharashtra ATS arrest two people from Navi Mumbai and Kalyan, an ISIS recruit from that state who crossed over into Syria sent back an audio message for prospective recruits. In it, he tells them they are in the land of the impure and need to come and fight for ISIS to go to heaven, the police said.
But ATS officials said that in cases where radicalisation was not found to be deep-rooted, the suspect wasn’t arrested. An official pointed to the Malwani case, in which alleged ISIS recruits Wajid Sahikh and Noor Mohammed were made witnesses and de-radicalised upon their return home, while a third suspect, Mohsin Sayyed, was arrested as his allegiance to the group was found to be stronger. “We only arrest those who have reached the point of no return,” said the official.