NIA cracks down on ISIS Kerala netizens

| | Kochi

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has intensified its efforts to prevent the propagation over the social media of messages aimed at wooing Keralites into the global terror force, Islamic State (ISIS).

As part of the crackdown, the investigation agency has reportedly instructed the authorities of the social media platform ‘Telegram’ to remove groups that are specialising in propagation of Islamic State ideology. The agency’s efforts were triggered allegedly by the appearance in a section of the media some voice messages about the recruitment of youths into the ISIS.

The NIA has learned that messages are being circulated extensively over the social media with the objective of recruiting more youths into the ISIS from Kerala, which had become an important centre for sourcing manpower for the terror group a long time back. Telegram is perhaps the most preferred platform for propagating such messages, according to sleuths.

As per reports, the NIA had succeeded in getting at least three such Telegram App groups specialising in propagating Islamic State ideology taken off the cyberspace last year. The NIA turned its attention to the matter now as such messages had started coming out of ISIS centers abroad recently after a long lull.

However, the Telegram messages that had reached Kerala recently had not contained explosively provocative contents but the NIA has brought the groups under surveillance especially because the messages contained matters pertaining to ISIS-related cases that came under the agency’s ongoing investigations, a Kerala TV channel quoted a top NIA official as saying.

The most important terror case the NIA is looking into Kerala is the one related to the disappearance of 22 persons including women and children from Kasaragod and Palakkad districts in May-June, 2016, who had allegedly joined the ISIS in Afghanistan. The case was registered by the Kerala Police and the NIA took over the probe later. A Special NIA Court had on March 24 sentenced Yasmeen Mohammed Zahid, a 30-year-old woman of Bihar origin, to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment in the case relating to the recruitment of 15 persons including Abdul Rashid Abdullah from Padanna, Kasaragod, allegedly the group’s coordinator and second husband of the woman.

“It is almost impossible for agencies to lay their hands on the roots of such social media collectives as the people behind them are based in places that are entirely out of reach for them. All that the agencies can do is to take down the particular pages but they can come up with another collective,” said a former Kerala Police official who was with its cyber wing.

This is not the first time efforts by the ISIS to lure Kerala youths into it with campaigns through social media platforms had caught the attention of the investigating and Intelligence agencies.  They had in July last year found out that some of the people belonging to the group of 22 were managing a WhatsApp collective intended at spreading the ideology of Jihad.

The admin of one of the WhatsApp groups the agencies had identified then, “Message to Kerala”, was one Abu Isa, presumably the same Isa from Yakkara, Palakkad, a Christian youth who converted to Islam who had gone to Afghanistan with his wife Fatima, a Hindu girl who had embraced Islam.

Investigators had learned as back as in October, 2016 that Ansarul Khilafa-Kerala, a module of the ISIS, had been running a Facebook page with similar objective. They had also learned that the page was being maintained by Manseed of Thalassery, who was arrested on October 2, 2016 along with four others from Kanakamala, Kannur while they were holding a secret meeting.



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