Indian national Mohammad Niaz Abdul Raseed was sentenced to eight years of prison for “criminal conspiracy for the preparation of a terrorist act” by the Paris Criminal court on Monday.
Niaz was part of the group of eight in which rest were sentenced to between 18 months and five years.
Niaz had been under detention since his arrest in France in 2011. His lawyer Sebastien Bono told HT that his client doesn’t considered himself a terrorist, denied all accusations made against him and wasn’t sure yet if he will make an appeal.
Cases of Indians involved in terror activities abroad remained rare despite reports that terror groups were struggling to find supporters in India.
Only two other Indian names have surfaced in the recent past: Kafeel Ahmed, born in Bangalore, raised in Saudi Arabia, died carrying out a car bombing at Glasgow airport in 2007 and Dhiren Barot (alias Abu Musa al-Hindi), born in Vadodara, radicalised in Britain, was imprisoned for plotting to bomb a series of buildings including the New York Stock Exchange in 2004.
Security analyst Bibhu Prasad Routray of the Insitute of Peace and Conflict Studies said, “Niaz’s case was unique in the sense of his wider connections with the SIMI, LeT/ TTP and even the Al Qaeda who appear to have set up a dedicated team for such talent hunt on social media and are also uploading anti-India videos targeting Indian youth.”
Nearly all the evidence produced in the court against Niaz was through internet surveillance carried out by French authorities. A French version of a website (Ansar-alhaqq.net), which also exists in English and Arabic, seems to have been an important source not just for Niaz and his group but also for Mohammad Merah, the “scooter killer” who gunned down seven people, including children and French soldiers, in the south of France in 2012.
Niaz had downloaded vast amount of “jihadi” literature, including a manual on how to make explosives with easy-to-buy chemicals, written by the man known as “Al Qaeda’s chemist” and speeches by leaders of Tehreki-e-Taliban Pakistan.
He met all his connections in France as well as in Pakistan on social media.
“Lone wolves” like Niaz, find a sea of information and tools on the net, tailor-made for terrorist activity. Apart from videos of atrocities against Muslims and calls to fight in “lands of jihad”, these sites also provide safe routes to enter conflict-ridden countries. France, where Niaz was able to form a group, is turning into fertile ground for terror recruits, where disgruntled youth in poor suburbs are turning into easy prey.