The National Investigation Agency has said former Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative, Shafi Armar, a resident of Bhatkal in Karnataka, has been elevated as the “media chief” of the Islamic State (IS), not only for recruitments in India but worldwide.
Though the IS has many foreign fighters in its ranks, investigators were surprised at the meteoric rise of Armar within the terror outfit.
The NIA has said Armar’s name cropped up during investigations of at least 30 of 54 men arrested across the country for alleged links with the IS.
The interrogation of these men has revealed that Armar asked them to target not only Hindu political leaders, government officials and RSS workers but Shia Muslims as well, one of the charge sheets filed by NIA said. An NIA official said the IS not only wanted to create communal tension but also stoke sectarian violence in India.
As per the NIA’s charge sheet, Armar operates with over hundred pseudo identities like Anjan Bhai, Gumnam and Chote Maula on over two dozen web-based platforms like Nimbuzz, Surespot, Telegram, We Chat, Kik and Trillian.
Investigators suspect that the recent propaganda video featuring six Indians in Syria was shot by Armar.
The agency said in its report that after he fled India in 2008 amid a crackdown against IM operatives, Armar is said to have lived for few days in UAE.
He then reached Afghanistan via Pakistan and with the help of Al Qaeda, raised an organisation — the Ansar ul Tawhid (AuT), with his elder brother Sultan Armar, who was killed in a drone strike in Syria in 2015. The AuT later pledged allegiance to IS and Armar is said to have shifted base to Syria now.
“Armar is the kingpin who was the connecting force for various individuals across India inclined towards IS,” says the NIA charge sheet.
The Armar brothers’ link to IS first figured during the interrogation of key IM member Yasin Bhatkal, who was arrested near the Nepal border in 2013.
A charge sheet filed by the NIA in 2014 quoted Bhatkal as saying: “During chat (email), accused A-26 (Shafi Armar) stated that he desired to be dispatched to Syria to work with other jihadis...he desired that India should also become like Iraq and Syria.”Repeated mention
In a countrywide raid in January this year, NIA arrested 18 men who had allegedly formed an organization — Junoodul-Khilafa-Fil-Hind (a group seeking to establish Caliphate in India with allegiance to IS) — to recruit Muslim youth to work for the Syria-based outfit and commit acts of terror in India at Armar’s behest.
One of these accused, Mohammad Nafees Khan told the NIA that in September 2015, Armar had directed him to meet another accused Mohammad Khalid in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, to decide the organisational structure in consonance with the Shura Council of the IS.
“Armar addressed members of the group who had assembled in Lucknow, from various parts of the country to listen to him, on an audio call on Skype. He called on Khan’s phone and asked the members to arrange weapons and go for physical training to fight the government and Shia Mulsims,” the NIA charge sheet states.
Another accused Mudabbir Mushtaq Sheikh, a resident of Maharashtra allegedly told investigators that he first met Armar online when he posted comments on a Facebook page on Khilafat in June 2013.
“Sheikh got a message from Armar on Facebook and the latter created a Skype account for him. In June 2014, Armar informed Sheikh that he had become a follower of Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, pledged allegiance to IS and was proceeding to Syria now. For three months, there was no contact between them. Then in September 2014, Armar contacted Sheikh and asked him to make a timer bomb using a mobile phone. He told Sheikh that such bombs were used against American fighters in Afghanistan,” reads the NIA charge sheet.