India Increases Vigilance as IS Expands From Strongholds

Rohit Wadhwaney

151120-IN-indiasecurity-620 Indian security personnel stand guard in Bangalore, Oct. 12, 2015. India’s government has increased security at foreign diplomatic missions following last week’s IS-claimed attacks in Paris and Beirut.

India, which has long discounted the presence of the Islamic State on home soil, is being forced to look at the extremist group as a serious threat as IS expands from its strongholds in Iraq and Syria, experts say.

Indian security services, they say, have become more vigilant following last week’s deadly terrorist attacks by IS operatives in Paris and Beirut, as well the Oct. 31 bombing of a Russian passenger plane over the Sinai desert, which IS also claimed. A total of nearly 400 people died in the three terrorist acts.

“Security agencies have kept a close watch on those joining the IS and have also prevented some youths from joining the group,” retired Group Capt. Ajey Lele, a security expert at the New Delhi-based Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis, told BenarNews. “So I don’t believe India has completely neglected the possibility of a threat from the IS.”

“But due to the recent attacks in Paris, Beirut and on a Russian airliner in Egypt, which have been claimed by the IS, whose main areas of interest previously were Iraq and Syria, India’s appreciation of threat has become more real,” he added.

Two days after coordinated attacks by gunmen and suicide bombers in Paris left 130 people dead on Nov. 13, security agencies in India scaled up the perceived threat from IS, beefing up security at embassies and consulates of France, the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, Germany, Australia, Turkey and Israel, according to an advisory issued by the Home Ministry.

“Though the IS has not been able to establish any significant presence in India, its success in radicalizing some youth, attracting certain sections of the local population or the Indian diaspora to physically participate in its activities or the possibility of piggybacking on terrorist groups operating in India have opened up the possibility of IS-sponsored terrorist actions on Indian territory,” said the advisory sent out to all Indian states and union territories.

Sources in India’s Intelligence Bureau (IB) tell BenarNews that 23 Indians are believed to have joined IS’s self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Among them, six have died and one of the suspected IS recruits – Areeb Majeed – has come home.

Majeed, 23, a native of Mumbai, returned to India in October 2014, after spending more than six months with the jihadi outfit. He has since been in police custody.

Majeed’s bail plea, which has been pending in the Bombay High Court since June, is scheduled to be heard Monday.

“He has also filed a petition in court challenging his remand, describing it as illegal detention,” Majeed’s lawyer, Abdul Wahab Khan, told BenarNews.

IS could link with local terror group

On Thursday, a top army commander in the northern state of Jammu & Kashmir said that India needed to be wary of IS allying itself with the Pakistan-based terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT)

“Yes, that can be a possibility as the motive of the terrorists is to spread their propaganda,” Lt. Gen. R.R. Nimbhorkar told reporters in Jammu.

He added that “about 600 to 700 terrorists” were active in Pakistan-administered part of Kashmir and “waiting to infiltrate India.”

The commander’s warning reiterated what counter-terrorism expert retired Maj. Gen. Afsir Karim told BenarNews earlier this week.

“LeT might join forces with the IS to launch an attack on India. That’s the real threat,” Karim said.

While saying was no concrete evidence of IS having a foothold in India, intelligence officials conceded that there was “no question of taking the possibility of an attack in India lightly.”

“Security agencies in India have prevented some 30 radicalized Indian youth from leaving the country to join the IS,” an Intelligence Bureau official told BenarNews on condition of anonymity.

“About 150 more are under surveillance for showing sympathy to the IS,” he said, adding most of those with leanings toward the terror group were between 16 and 30 years old and lived in southern Indian states.

Police study recruitment video

Elsewhere, police in the eastern state of West Bengal said they were studying a recently released Bengali-language video that encouraged people to join the IS.

The video, which runs under three minutes, is believed to have originated close to the India-Bangladesh border.

Police suspect the involvement of the Ansar-ul-Tawhid Fi Bilal Al Hind, an India-specific jihadist group, or the Ansarullah Bangla Team of Bangladesh, according to a Times of India report.

According to AuT’s media arm, al-Isabah Media, the group’s propaganda videos aim to establish an Islamic caliphate and are dedicated to India-origin Mujahids who are participating in jihadist conflicts, the report said.

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