The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) has promoted two young men, Fahad Tanveer Shaikh and Aman Naeem Tandel, to top leadership positions in the territory the jihadist group claims to control in India.
Citing sources within the Indian government’s counterterrorism arm, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the Times of India (TOI) reports, “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.”
“Daesh intends to make Fahad and Aman its poster boys in India,” noted the NIA sources. “Those radicalized by its ideology believe it will introduce a caliphate, like the one that existed in medieval times. And that’s the reason these youths have been given titles like naeb khalifa.”
Fahad and Aman allegedly traveled to Syria in 2014 to engage in jihad on behalf of ISIS. They are from the Kalyan township in Western India’s Maharashtra state, where officials reportedly blocked 94 websites linked to ISIS earlier this year.
A recently released 22-minute propaganda video being monitored by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadi activity online, features the two young men.
In the video, which is reportedly in Arabic, the two Kalyan youths are shown along with two others — Areeb Majeed, and Shaheem Tanki — warning the Indian people of retaliation for “committing atrocities against Muslims.”
“We will return [to India], but with a sword in hand, to avenge the Babri Masjid, and the killings of Muslims in Kashmir, in Gujarat, and in Muzaffarnagar,” a bearded Aman, wearing an Islamic turban, is shown in the video saying.
In the video, Reuters reports, the “Islamic State [IS] mocked Muslims living in harmony with Hindus who worship cows, trees and the sun, and urged them to travel to IS-held territories in the ‘Caliphate.'”
Fahad and Aman have been “rewarded with promotions” for being committed to their allegiance to ISIS, the NIA sources told the Times of India, adding that Areeb Majeed, also featured in the video, “panicked and handed himself over to the Indian Consulate at Istanbul after escaping to Turkey.”
Another Indian shown in the video — Shaheem Tanki — was reportedly killed last year in the jihadist group’s de facto capital of Raqqa in Syria.
Senior NIA officers are quoted by the TOI as saying “that Aman and Fahad were more orthodox, and far deeply radicalized than Majeed and Shaheem Tanki.”
“This is the first time that Daesh has released a video directly targeting India, and the NIA officers said its release on Friday was timed to ‘celebrate’ two years of the four Kalyan youths leaving the country in the guise of pilgrimage to Iraq,” notes TOI. “The four had left India on May 25, 2014, through Ajmeri Tours in Mumbai, although they had been making efforts to join Daesh since January 2013.”
In January 2015, ISIS announced the establishment of its Khorasan Province (ISIL-K). Khorasan is a historic name for a region that covers Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, parts of Hindu-controlled India, and other surrounding countries.
Nearly a year later, Zee News reported that “over 30,000” people in India were ready to join ISIS and wage jihad against their own country, the second most populous in the world.
According to an edition of ISIS’s propaganda magazine Dabiq issued earlier this year, ISIL-K is committed to “expanding to Kashmir to fight the cow-worshipping Hindus and the apostates from factions allied to the idol-worshippers of Pakistan” as well as the “atheist Chinese.”
Pakistan, India, and China all have competing claims to the Himalayan region of Kashmir.
The ISIS threat in India has made headlines this year.
In January, Indian authorities apprehended four young ISIS sympathizers in New Delhi, accused of planning massive attacks on Republic Day (January 26), which commemorates the implementation of the Indian constitution in 1950 and the day in 1930 when the Indian National Congress declared independence from the United Kingdom.
Over 1,000 Muslim leaders and scholars in India issued a fatwa (religious ruling) against ISIS as contrary to the true teachings of Islam in September 2015.