A suspected Islamic State (IS) sympathiser arrested from Bengal was asked by his Syria-based handler to behead a known businessman and record the event on video to prove his worth for bigger assignments, multiple sources revealed to HT on Thursday.
The suspect, identified as Abu Mussa, was picked up from the Burdwan railway station on Wednesday while he was on his way to Labhpur in West Bengal’s Birbhum district where he was to kill the businessman whose identity was not given. Two of Mussa’s local accomplices were picked up the same day.
A foot-long butcher’s knife and a pencil camera were seized from Mussa, 25, who was allegedly in touch with Syria-based IS recruiter Shafi Armar alias Yusuf Al Hindi as well as a Bangladesh-based terror handler identified as Saifullah.
Shafi Armar, a resident of Bhatkal in Karnataka, is an ex-Indian Mujahideen terrorist who formed a group called the Anwar ul-Tawhid along with other Indians in Pakistan before moving to the IS.
Coming a few days after Bangladesh was numbed by one of the most violent terrorist attacks in the country – when 20 people were killed at an upscale café in Dhaka – the arrests have sent alarm bells ringing in the Indian security establishment.
The Bangladesh government blames home-grown terrorists of banned Jamaat ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) for the attack though the IS have claimed it.
The home ministry has called a meeting of the anti-terrorist squads (ATS) all state police in Delhi on July 12 to review the growing threat from the IS which is known to seek publicity through gruesome execution videos.
Mussa was allegedly told to slit the throat of the businessman, one of the most common forms of execution practiced by the outfit and made famous by a British-origin member known as Jihadi John in several publicity videos. He has since been killed in a US drone strike.
Sources said that Mussa was told by his handler to “start violence” – kill all it considers infidels -- in India after which funds will flow for jihadi activities.
Earlier, the IS’ Bangladesh chapter chief Sheikh Abu Ibrahim talked about a two-pronged attack on India -- from Khorasan or Afghanistan-Pakistan region and from Bangladesh.
Mussa told police during interrogation that his arrest will not make any difference and there are thousands of others waiting to join the war.
Though several youths from the country are suspected to have joined the IS, Mussa’s confession was the first direct evidence of the outfit’s plans to unleash its brand of terrorism in the country.
Sources said that at least 50 suspected IS sympathisers have been picked up by Bengal police since last September with no less than 30 more under surveillance.
Security agencies fear that with the JMB owing allegiance to the IS, there could be a terror spillover in West Bengal and Assam as the Bangladeshi terror group is known to have modules in these two sensitive states.
There are reports that the principal bomb-maker of the Burdwan module of JMB, Hath Kata Nasrullah, was seen in West Bengal an year after the group was busted on October 2, 2014.
Security agencies say that more than 33 allegedly youth owing allegiance to JMB have been arrested from Assam since September 2015.
Intelligence reports from Bangladesh indicate that the Dhaka café attack was crude with the five terrorists carrying one automatic .22 calibre pistol, two country-made pistols and butcher knives.
Even the person captured by the Bangladesh security forces was a Bangladeshi-origin Canadian national who was forced by the group to threaten people in the café with his girlfriend being kept as hostage, sources said
There is, however, a different view within a section of the Indian security establishment on the Bangladesh attack and the presence of IS in the sub-continent.
According to them, lack of sophisticated weaponry with the attackers shows that the terrorists belonged to a local group after declaring suo-moto allegiance to the IS.
These officers feel that there was perhaps a Pakistani intermediary between the attackers and IS, whose identity may be revealed subsequently. But even this faction is foxed how the IS uploaded photos of the gruesome killing on their website if there was no connection.