India Unsure of Whereabouts of Specially Designated Global Terrorist

Akash Vashishtha and Rohit Wadhwaney
2017.06.21
New Delhi
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170621-IN-terror-list-620.jpg Indian Muslim boys hold signs and shout slogans against the Islamic State during a protest in New Delhi, June 9, 2017.
AFP

The government does not know the whereabouts of the alleged principal recruiter for the Islamic State (IS) in India who was added last week to the U.S. State Department’s list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists, a Home Ministry official said.

Karnataka state-born Mohammad Shafi Armar, alias Yousuf al-Hindi, 27, who is believed to be operating out of Syria, allegedly radicalized and recruited dozens of Indian Muslims for the Middle East-based terror outfit through social networking sites, according to Indian intelligence agencies.

Although news of Armar’s death in a U.S. airstrike appeared in media reports in April 2016, the Indian government said it “could not confirm whether he is dead or alive.”

“We have no information about his whereabouts,” K.S. Dhatwalia, spokesman for the Ministry of Home Affairs, told BenarNews.

Armar, a native of Karnataka’s port town of Bhatkal cultivated dozens of IS sympathizers who were involved in terrorist activities across India, including plotting attacks, procuring weapons and identifying locations for setting up terror training camps, the State Department said in a news release issued June 15.

Besides Armar, the State Department added the names of two other alleged IS operatives to its list of global terrorists – Belgian-Moroccan national Oussama Ahmad Atar, who allegedly coordinated the 2015 Paris and 2016 Brussels attacks, and Bahrain national Mohammed Isa Yousif Saqar al-Binali.

Armar is the second Indian national to figure in the list after Mumbai-born gangster Dawood Ibrahim, who is wanted for allegedly masterminding the 1993 Mumbai blasts that killed 257 people. Ibrahim is believed to be hiding in Pakistan.

Those added to this list of global terrorists face the possibility of U.S. sanctions, such as denying them access to the U.S. financial system.

At least 25 recruits

Armar is believed to be a common link among at least 25 suspected IS sympathizers arrested by Indian security agencies during the past couple of years, intelligence sources told BenarNews.

Although the Indian government repeatedly denied IS has made any significant inroads in the country, about 70 Indian Muslims have been arrested and are facing trial for showing leanings toward the terror outfit.

“A number of these suspects have told us during interrogations that they were recruited by Armar through online platforms, such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Skype,” an official of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), India’s top counter-terror unit, told BenarNews on condition of anonymity.

The NIA also brought charges against Armar for allegedly conspiring to perpetrate terror strikes in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, the official said.

Intelligence agencies claim Armar is one of about 50 Indians who left the country for the Middle East to fight alongside IS. At least seven have died in battle.

Armar allegedly took over the reins of IS’s India offshoot – Ansar ul-Tawhid (AuT) – after his brother, Abdul Khadir Sultan Armar, 38, was killed in an airstrike in Kobane, Syria, in March 2015, intelligence sources said.

Last year, Armar dismantled AuT and renamed it as Junud al Khalifa-e-Hind, which translates to “soldiers of the Indian caliphate,” with an aim to establish an IS unit in every Indian state, they said.

Police in the southern state of Karnataka said that while they were not aware of Armar’s exact location, he was “certainly not anywhere in Karnataka.”

“We are keeping a close watch on his neighborhood and his Bhatkal house, where only his mother stays. His father is no more and two of his younger brothers have been untraceable since 2006,” deputy superintendent of police Shiv Kumar told BenarNews.

Armar’s mother could not be reached for a comment. A relative who requested anonymity said the family had severed all ties with Armar and had “stopped communicating with him since 2010, when he left to work in Oman.”

Retired Maj. Gen. Afsir Karim, a security analyst based in New Delhi, urged security agencies to confirm if he is dead or alive.

“If he is alive, precautions need to be taken to ensure that he doesn’t enter India or other South Asian countries like Pakistan, Maldives, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka,” Karim told BenarNews.

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