A British media report on Friday saying that the man operating the world’s “most-influential pro-Islamic State Twitter account” was a private sector executive here sent the police and Indian intelligence and investigation agencies on a hunt for him in India’s sprawling Silicon Valley.
After Channel 4 News reported that the handler of the account @ShamiWitness was a marketing executive, “Mehdi,” the Bengaluru Police formed a special team to track him down. Police officers did not say what leads, if any, they had. Police sources said the National Investigation Agency had joined the search and would lead the investigation but NIA sources said they were only “watching” the situation.
Indian investigators, sources said, are likely to write to Twitter and Google, seeking help to track down the IP address from which the Twitter account and a blog that is still active were operated. Investigators suspect it would be a dynamic IP address, which would pose a further challenge.
“We have to first authenticate the account and get details by obtaining the IP address. The account has been removed,” said an intelligence source in New Delhi.
The special team is trying to track down his Facebook friends and collect any information from his possible circle of contacts.
Twitter India said it did not comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons. “We do not proactively monitor content on the platform. We review all reported accounts against our rules, which prohibit direct, specific threats of violence against others,” the microblogging site said in response to questions by The Hindu .
A senior city police official leading the investigation said that from media reports, it was evident that Channel 4 of the U.K. had taken the man’s claims to be “a marketing executive working for an Indian conglomerate from Bengaluru,” as he described himself on his Facebook page, at face value. He said the claim could have been deliberately made to mislead authorities.
The Cyber Crime Cell in the city had tried to recover cache copies of multiple social media accounts believed to be Mehdi’s and to track down the IP addresses that was handling the account over a period of time. However, officials refused to divulge details of the findings.
A senior official said the team was working on the assumption that if the man had indeed been in Bengaluru, he would have already left the city. The official said that they were yet to ascertain when the Channel 4 interview was conducted, and suspected that there was enough time for him to flee. Officials are trying to get in touch with Channel 4 authorities in London.
Intelligence and security sources in Delhi also said they were inclined to believe that the man may not be based in Bengaluru and could have given a false name and location.