A teenage girl from the Indian state of Maharashtra who was detained Thursday for showing interest in joining the Islamic State (IS) had been brainwashed over the Internet into becoming a suicide bomber, the country’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) said Friday.
The 16-year-old Muslim girl, who was not named because of her age, is a convent school student in Pune.
She was in constant touch with Mohammed Sirajuddin, 30, a senior official of the state-run Indian Oil Corp., who was arrested last week in Jaipur, Rajasthan, on suspicion of being an IS operative, sources within the ATS told BenarNews.
“The girl was actively connected with Sirajuddin on an online messaging application called Telegram,” an official close to the investigation in Rajasthan said.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said the two were part of a pro-IS group that had “about 150 members,” with “at least six of them from India.”
“Sirajuddin had radicalized the girl to an extent that she was willing to go to Syria for training to become a suicide bomber,” the official said.
Bhanu Pratap Barge, the ATS chief in Pune, confirmed that interrogation of the girl had revealed she was “willing to go to any extent” to carry out directives issued by the IS, which had promised to enroll her in a medical school in Syria.
He told BenarNews that the girl, whose online conversations were monitored for days before she was detained, was undergoing counseling sessions in a bid to de-radicalize her, with help from her family and local Muslim clerics.
“The deradicalization process has been initiated. It should help the girl positively. And we are providing complete support to the girl’s family,” Barge said.
He added that the girl’s family had started noticing changes in her some months back. “From western attire like jeans and T-shirts, she started wearing burqas. This left them somewhat disturbed.”
Communicating with many IS sympathizers
An India Today report said the girl, who was in regular contact with nearly 200 IS-sympathizers from various countries, told her interrogators that the terror outfit was “planning to launch a massive assault in the Indian subcontinent by 2020.”
While Indian security forces have refrained from arresting people with leanings toward the IS and instead have begun enrolling them in de-radicalization programs, at least 10 extremely radicalized youth have been taken into custody over the past year or so.
They are also keeping a close watch on nearly 150 Indian youth, including many from the south of the country, for showing sympathy to the group, according to an intelligence report.
The report says that six of the 23 Indians who have left the country to fight for the IS in Iraq or Syria have been killed there.
A recently released e-book, purportedly published by the IS, claims that the Indian subcontinent is on its radar for attacks. This has prompted security forces to sharpen their focus on the jihadist organization.
The book, which was made available for free download on several Jihadist websites on Dec. 3, also goads Indian Muslims to wage war against its Hindu nationalist government, which is led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The ATS official in Rajasthan confirmed that the sustained grilling of Sirajuddin had revealed that Modi, U.S. President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Iranian supreme leader Sayyed Ali Khamenei, were considered four of the IS’s greatest adversaries.