With terrorists abroad increasingly using chat rooms on social networking sites to recruit youth in India, central and state security agencies are stepping up their online monitoring in a bid to prevent terror attacks.
On October 18, 24-year-old Anis Ansari, a software techie from Kurla, was arrested. For over a year, he had participated in online chats pertaining to jihad. The state Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) monitored him for several months and decided to arrest him when he spoke about blowing up the American School of Bombay in Bandra Kurla Complex.
ATS insiders said that Ansari used to participate in online chats using a fake account. He also used to watch videos and lectures revolving around global terror outfit Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
No action was taken against Ansari initially as he was only posting his views online and there was no direct involvement in terror activity, ATS sources said, adding that monitoring also helped them gain knowledge about Ansari’s associates.
“There are several such individuals who are very radical in their views — they are regularly monitored by the agency. We only pick them up for questioning or arrest them after they actually get involved in terror activity,” a senior IPS official said on the condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
Officials said technology helps them nab terrorists as it provides them access to chats and the location from where messages are sent. While in most cases terrorists are careful not to reveal their identity, they often slip up, thus helping investigating agencies to identify and monitor them.
Through online monitoring, security agencies get an idea of the location of terror handlers overseas. The location of top Indian Mujahideen (IM) leaders including Riyaz Bhatkal, supposedly based in Pakistan, was confirmed after IM’s India head Yasin Bhatkal started chatting with him. According to ATS sources, IM leaders had used social media in the recent past not just to communicate with each other, but also to identify ‘like-minded’ people who were later recruited to the IM fold.