The U.S. Embassy in the Indian capital of New Delhi issued a security message this week, urging Americans to “maintain a high level of vigilance” following media reports highlighting the Islamic State’s “desire to attack targets in India,” namely places that are visited regularly by Westerners.
In January 2015, ISIS announced that it had established a branch currently operating in and around the South Asian region.
Known as the Khorasan Province (IS-K/ISIL-KP), the primary stronghold of the jihadist group’s wing is Nangarhar in eastern Afghanistan, a province that sits along the country’s border with Pakistan.
Khorasan is an ancient name for a region that primarily covers Afghanistan and Pakistan, but also includes parts of Iran, India, and other neighboring countries.
“Recent Indian media reports indicate ISIL’s desire to attack targets in India. The U.S. Embassy warns of an increased threat to places in India frequented by Westerners, such as religious sites, markets, and festival venues,” notes the New Delhi-based American consulate in a security message issued Tuesday. “All U.S. citizens are reminded to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness as detailed in the State Department’s Worldwide Caution of September 9, 2016.”
The American embassies across the world operate under the U.S. Department of State.
“India continues to experience terrorist and insurgent activities which may affect U.S. citizens directly or indirectly,” points out the State Dept. in its recent Worldwide Caution report.
Although the report does not mention ISIS in India, the State Dept. recognized the terrorist group’s presence in the South Asian country in its latest Country Reports on Terrorism, a congressionally mandated assessment of terrorism activities across the world.
Both India and the United States have “reaffirmed concerns over threats posed by groups such as [al-Qaeda] and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and called for the United States and India to work together to eliminate terrorist safe havens and infrastructure, disrupt terrorist networks and their financing, and stop cross-border movement of terrorists,” notes the assessment.
“Indian officials emphasized that the government takes threats posed by ISIL seriously, even though media reported that less than 30 Indians have been recruited into the organization and less than 200 have considered joining,” adds the terrorism assessment, which was issued in June. “In some instances, clerics and family members supported de-radicalization efforts by government officials, although sympathy for ISIL appeared to increase online.”
Indian authorities have already foiled ISIS-linked attacks.
“Officials from the National Investigation Agency [NIA], India’s counter-terrorism unit, [have] been quoted as saying that an Indian man arrested last month in Tamil Nadu and charged with terrorism offences had been an active member of Islamic State in Iraq,” reports Reuters.
Earlier this year, ISIS named two young men — Fahad Tanveer Shaikh and Aman Naeem Tandel — as top leaders of the territory the jihadist group claims to control in India.
“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,” reported Times of India (TOI) in May, citing NIA sources.