Members of the Malwani module of Islamic State (ISIS) targeted youngsters from lower income groups in the city and convinced them to join the outfit.
Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS), which is questioning the arrested accused, have gathered that Ayaz Sultan, believed to be in Iraq at present, was assigned the task of identifying potential recruits from Malwani. Khalid Ahmed Ali Nawazuddin alias Rizwan, the number two of ISIS in India, was also among the recruiters.
Those targeted in the area include Mohsin Ibrahim Sayeed, a 26-year-old auto driver and Noor Mohammad Shaikh, 32, a daily wage labourer. Even Wajid Sheikh, 23, who is a Commerce gradate, worked in a small shop owned by his father.
ATS sources said that Sultan familiarised these men with Internet chat rooms, where ISIS foreign handlers befriended them and began the process of radicalising them.
Sultan targeted at least eight people in the area, the sources said, adding, that two of them refused to agree with him and opposed his ideology. He successfully convinced Wajid, Mohsin and Noor, who left their homes last December.
Wajid and Noor have returned, while the search for Mohsin is still on. Three others aborted their plans after the news about Sultan’s involvement with the terror outfit leaked out.
Though Sultan left the country around October last year, he had already identified and disclosed the names of potential recruits to the handlers based overseas.
At this point when more convincing was needed, Khalid stepped in and began the process of indoctrinating the potential recruits. “Khalid made at least two trips to the city to speak to some of those from Malwani to try and radicalise them and to make them join the ISIS,” said a senior officer from the state ATS, who did not wish to be named.
Apart from Khalid, the ATS has also questioned Wajid, Noor and others who have retuned to the city. The ATS has also seized their phones and have checked some of the material that was passed onto them by the ISIS handlers.