The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) is suspected of having set up sleeper cells inside India, the world’s second most populous nation, the Iraqi ambassador to India told The Hindu.
ISIS claims to control territory in India.
Fakhri Hassan al Issa, the envoy, stressing the growing Islamic radicalization in South Asia, told The Hindu that India should take action to closely guard against Islamic seminaries and preachers to understand “what kind of Islam” they are promoting.
“A particular brand of Islam that is being taught in foreign-funded seminaries in different parts of the world, including in India, is responsible for the rise of the [Islamic State] IS. Such training automatically leads to producing of IS sympathizers. I can tell you there are such forces in India who impart such a teaching,” declared the ambassador, claiming this new brand of Islamic teachings is depriving Muslims of its humanitarian and tolerant traditions.
“Islamic seminaries and televangelists are powerful tools in the war that the IS is waging, and that is why countries should exercise more control on these sections,” he noted.
Issa’s comments come as ISIS has increasingly claimed responsibility for brutal attacks, including the hacking of victims with machetes in neighboring Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority nation that has recently experienced a spate of attacks over the last 18 months, in which writers, bloggers, academics, activists, liberals, atheists, foreigners, gays, and religious minorities have been fatally targeted.
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Among those terrorist attacks is the recent massacre at the Holey Artisan Bakery cafe in the nation’s capital Dhaka that began the night of July 3 and carried into the next day, leaving 22 people dead, many of them hacked to death with sharp objects. An estimated 40 people were also wounded.
The Indian region’s ISIS branch is known as the Khorasan Province (IS-KP/ISIL-K), which was officially announced by the jihadist group in January 2015.
Khorasan is an ancient name for a region that is largely in what is now Afghanistan but also covers parts of Pakistan, Iran, India, and other surrounding countries.
Zee News reported in January that “over 30,000 people in India are in contact with ISIS” and “ready to work for ISIS to wage war against their own country.”
Mr. Issa noted that ISIS is increasingly using young men to carry out attacks.
In May, ISIS reportedly promoted two young Indian nationals who had traveled to join the jihadist group in Syria — Fahad Tanveer Shaikh and Aman Naeem Tandel — to top leadership positions in the territory the jihadist group claims to control in the India’s region.
“The radicalized youths do not understand that they are the puppets who are motivated by a brand of religion and are used by intelligence agencies fighting proxy wars in West Asia,” declared Issa, Iraq’s envoy to India.
Citing sources within the Indian government’s counterterrorism arm, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the Times of India (TOI) reported in May:
Fahad, who is now called Abu Bakr al-Hindi, has been named naeb khalifa (deputy caliph) to lead Daesh’s operations against India, while Aman, renamed Abu Umar al-Hindi, is the governor of ‘Hind wal’Sindh’, a Daesh [ISIS] usage for India and Pakistan.
The two young men are from the Kalyan township in Western India’s Maharashtra state, where authorities reportedly blocked 94 websites linked to ISIS earlier this year.
A 22-minute ISIS propaganda video features the two young men threatening India.
In the video, which is believed to be the first one released by ISIS threatening India, the two Kalyan youths are shown along with two other Indians — Areeb Majeed, and Shaheem Tanki — warning the Indian people of retaliation for “committing atrocities against Muslims.”
India and Iraq are cooperating on security, said Issa, without elaborating further.
“There was no point in denying that radicalized elements found a fertile ground in South Asian countries too,” added the Times of India.
The jihadist group has expanded outside its so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria to at least eight countries and regions: Libya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sinai, Nigeria, Algeria, the Caucuses, and Afghanistan-Pakistan, the Obama administration has acknowledged.
The terrorist group is also seeking to officially establish branches in the Philippines, Bangladesh, and Somalia where it already has a presence.