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Kerala Police arrests two men from Kannur for alleged links with Islamic State

One of the arrested men was responsible for recruiting several youths from Kerala and helping them go to regions such as Syria and Afghanistan, where IS has launched an insurgency marked by mass killings and bombings.

india Updated: Oct 26, 2017 22:59 IST
Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
islamic state,indians joining islamic state,indians in ISIS
Hamza Thalasserry (in white) and Mohamed Manaf were arrested on Thursday for alleged links with the Islamic State.(HT photo)

The Kerala Police arrested two people, including the “main recruiter” for having links with the Islamic State (IS) from Kannur district on Thursday — a day after catching three suspects over connection with the terror group.

The police said Hamza Thalasserry is responsible for recruiting several youths from the state and helping them go to regions such as Syria and Afghanistan, where IS has launched an insurgency marked by mass killings and bombings.

The 52-year-old, also known as Hamsa Taliban, according to police, is suspected to have close links with seniors in IS, officials said quoting his statements to investigators.

Kannur deputy superintendent of police PP Sadanandan, who is investigating the case, told HT that Hamza was operating from Gulf countries for more than 20 years. “Holding two passports, he visited many countries. He told us he was the cook of a Taliban leader and later switched over to the IS,” he said.

“Going by our investigation, he is a key operative of the outfit. During questioning, he took many big names of the terror outfit and said he was in touch with some of them,” he said.

Hamza, according to Sadanandan, still believed in IS ideology and was confident believers will establish the “caliphate” soon. Police suspect he recruited many from middle east. In his place of origin Thalaserry, Hamza was known as a “moderate religious preacher.”

He apparently told police he sent at least 40 youths and 15 of them died in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan. His funders, he told police, were based in Saudi Arabia and Oman. Hamza was under surveillance since the last five months after he returned to India following a tip off from intelligence agencies.

Police named the second person arrested on Thursday as Mohamed Manaf, but did not disclose specific details about his role. On Wednesday, KC Mithilaj (26), Abdul Rasaq (24) and AV Rasheed (24) were arrested for being sympathisers of the militant group. They were sent back to the middle east when they tried to cross the Turkey border. Police said more arrests are likely as 10 more people from north Kerala are under their radar.

Family cries foul

Family members of some of the arrested, however, cried foul saying they were interrogated by various intelligence agencies and let off when they found no evidence against them.

“My brother was interrogated twice by the NIA and state intelligence agencies. He came from the UAE six months back and was leading a normal life. He was summoned two days ago and his arrest was recorded. It was quite unexpected,” said his brother AV Ramees.

However, the police said they were watching their movements closely and they were in touch with their handlers abroad.

“My son was detained in Delhi for five days almost six months back and questioned by various agencies. Later, they let him off for lack of evidence. We were told his arrest was based on the revelations of one Shahjehan who was arrested in Delhi two months ago,” the father one of the arrested.

Shahjehan Velluva, who was deported from Turkey twice, was arrested from the IGI Airport in New Delhi when he was deported two months back.

First Published: Oct 26, 2017 13:11 IST