De-radicalised twice, Pune woman went back to IS: NIA
A 20-year-old woman from Pune, who wanted to be a suicide bomber, was de-radicalised twice in three years by Indian intelligence agencies, but she kept going back to embracing jihadi ideology, according to a charge sheet by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
Sadiya Anwar Shaikh, a resident of Yerwada in Pune, was de-redicalised once in 2015 and then again in 2018, when she was a minor, the agency said in its charge sheet, filed in the first week of September. She was arrested in July in a conspiracy case linked to the Islamic State (IS) after the second de-radicalisation effort failed.
According to the charge sheet, she has been in touch with terrorists of various groups such as the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), Islamic State in Jammu and Kashmir (ISJK), al Qaeda, Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind (AGH) in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, among other countries, on social media since 2015.
She was also in touch with a key IS “online motivator” from the Philippines, Karen Aisha Hamidon, who radicalised several Indian youngsters. NIA officials even travelled to Manila in April 2018 and questioned Hamidon.
Sadiya came under the radar of intelligence agencies in 2015, when she was just 15, for radical content on her Facebook account. One of her inspirations was wanted Islamic preacher Dr Zakir Naik, who is hiding in Malaysia,according to the charge sheet.
It said the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) of Pune tried to de-radicalise her and let her go. However, she again created multiple fake accounts on Facebook and other social media platforms. Later, in January 2018, she went to Kashmir and was examined by Jammu and Kashmir police. “After de-radicalisation, she was handed over to her mother,” the charge sheet said.
It said she once asked Jahanzaib Sami (named in the charge sheet along with her) if she can procure a suicide vest in Pune. She also learnt how to prepare an IED (improvised explosive device) using picric acid. “She was not only inclined towards ISIS (Islamic State) but was even ready to offer her support in the form of becoming a suicide bomber,” the charge sheet said.
On one occasion, the NIA charge sheet said, she even asked one of her IS contacts if they can explore the possibility of using the coronavirus to wreak havoc on India. “She desired that corona pandemic should be used to destroy the country, which shows her anti-national mentality,” the NIA said.
A senior counter-terrorism official, who did not wish to be named, said: “There was intent from her side to know if they can spread the virus by sending infected persons in crowded places or through other means. There was no implementation of the plan.”
Professor David Stadelmann from University of Bayreuth (Germany), who is an expert on terrorism, told HT that terrorist groups have discussed biological attacks in the past. “While deliberate attempts to infect people with corona may induce fear, it is rather unclear how such a systematic transmission of the virus would work because people get infected with the virus anyhow,” he said.