Mohammed Shafi Armar, a notorious Islamic State (IS) recruiter, hailing from Bhatkal, Karnataka, is learnt to have been killed in a U.S. air strike on Syria in the last couple of days.
A senior intelligence official in New Delhi tracking developments on IS said that they had received the information from their American counterparts on Sunday night. “We are in the process of cross-verifying it on the ground by our men. From initial reports, he is, in all probability, dead,” said the official. Intelligence agencies are also monitoring pro-IS social media handles for confirmation from the IS side.
Armar was recently in the news after the National Investigation Agency and Intelligence Bureau had, in a >countrywide crackdown, arrested 14 men , of which six were from Karnataka, on allegations of being in touch with the IS.
It later turned out that all the 14 arrested were in touch with Armar, who headed the Ansar-Ul-Tawhid, an offshoot of IS previously headed by his brother Sultan Armar. However, investigation had then revealed that he was operating under a new banner Janood Al Khalifa Hind, a local terror outfit.
The new terror outfit had an Amir, a military chief and a treasurer, all of whom were busted in the January 2016 operation. While all those arrested were under the scanner for IS leanings, an intervention was necessitated after agencies observed that the gang was working towards a terror strike within India.
“This clearly shows that Shafi Armar had aspirations to be the new Jehadi terror leader in the country filling the place of the Indian Mujahiddeen,” said the senior intelligence official.
In fact, he started his terror career with Indian Mujahiddeen, when he was recruited along with Sultan Armar to it by Riyaz Bhatkal in 2008, sources said. The brothers were holed up in Pakistan since then, agencies said.
However, in 2011-12, they started theAnsar-Ul-Tawhid, which was first operating from North Waziristan in Pakistan from the training camps of Tehrik-e-Taliban.
In fact, IS chief Abu-Bakr-Al-Bhagdadi in a video message had declared Sultan Armar as an Amir (leader) of AuT. He was killed on March 6, 2015 in a similar air strike in Kobane, Syria.
Shafi Armar, an online recruiter
Over the last two years, Shafi Armar had emerged as the >chief online recruiter of IS in the country.
Those arrested in Ratlam, Madhya Pradesh in April 2015, the four men arrested in New Delhi and Rourkela in January 2016 were also recruited by him, agencies claim. “Of late, he had emerged as the only common link among many IS recruits in the country,” the senior intelligence official said.
NIA officials had said that he followed a three-step recruitment process — first he would scout for vulnerable Muslim youth on social media like Facebook and Twitter, after which he would get in touch with them directly over web-based applications and brainwash them to join the IS. He would later use encrypted applications like Kik, Telegram to send instructions.