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A tale of two friends: One makes it to Syria, the other cools his heels in jail

The two grew up at Parangipettai in Cuddalore district, and attended the local government higher secondary school before joining New College, Chennai, for graduation.

Several years later in Singapore, the friends met again, to engage in a passionate discussion on the alleged grievances of Muslims. One of them is now in an Indian jail, while the other is somewhere in Syria, probably fighting for the Islamic State.

The story of the Singapore passport-holder Haja Fakkrudeen, who is now believed to be in Syria, and his friend Gul Mohamed Maracachi Maraicar, who is in jail, is demonstrative of the way the IS ideology has seeped across the world, through social media and as a response to local grievances.

Maraicar was deported from Singapore on February 27, 2014 on the charges of radicalising Fakkrudeen.

> Read: Techie left note for wife before heading to join IS | > How a minor Indian girl escaped Syrian battlefield

According to officials, Maraicar spent five years in Saudi Arabia before shifting to Singapore in 2007 to work with Exxon Mobile, IBM and other companies, and also to reunite with his childhood friend Fakkrudeen.

Maraicar was already drawn to extremist religious views from early college days, according to those who have questioned him. By the time he was in Singapore, he had also grown disenchanted with democracy and opposed the local elections.

He was also an active member of the Parangipettai Muslim Organization in Singapore, and was greatly impressed by The Islamic Way of Life written by Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami, according to these officials.



Fascinated by speeches

Maraicar was fascinated by the speeches of Australian radical preacher Feiz Mohammad, and the U.S.-Yemeni preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in 2011 by U.S. unmanned drones.

According to Singapore authorities, Maraicair once removed Singapore’s national flag hoisted on a mosque to mark the national day in 2012. The police took him into custody; but he was let off later with a warning.

Maraicar admitted to his role in radicalising Fakkrudeen, for which he was deported by Singapore authorities to India. Maraicar convinced Fakkrudeen that it was their duty to help Muslims who were suffering, such as the ones in Syria.



With the assistance of an IS sympathiser in Syria, who instructed him to bring along $1,500 for living expenses, Fakkrudeen finalised his life in the caliphate of IS. He was advised to come with his family so that it would be easy to cross over into Syria. On November 18, 2013, Maraicar saw off Fakkrudeen and his family at the Singapore airport.



However, in 12 days, the family returned to Dubai. According to details provided by Maraicar, Fakkrudeen and his family were put up with some fighters from Chechnya and were not allowed into the core areas of IS control. With no schools for their three children and bad living conditions, the family retreated as quickly as they went.



According to details available with Indian agencies, Fakkrudeen was originally planning to travel to Syria with two other persons from Chennai for his second trip to join the IS. Investigators have identified the other two. While one of them was refused Turkish visa, the other didn’t have a passport, leaving Fakkrudeen to travel alone. He travelled to Turkey on January 22, 2014, through Abu Dhabi with his wife and three children.



According to all available information, he is probably located somewhere on the Syria-Turkey border now.



According to investigators, the flight tickets for the family were arranged by a youth from Kanyakumari district who worked in a travel agency in Chennai. Initially they booked tickets from Chennai to Turkey through Abu Dhabi with return tickets. Later, the return tickets were cancelled. The youth also received confirmation of the Fakkrudeen family reaching Syria safely, one official said.



According to official records, during the period between December 2013 and January 2014, when Fakkrudeen was in Tamil Nadu, between his Syria trips, he tried to radicalise some students of his alma mater New College, Chennai, and some others.



Investigators have also identified several people from Tamil Nadu who were sympathetic to the IS and were part of Fakkrudeen’s network. Among them is a person running a Quran memorisation school in Cuddalore, a professor in Chennai, and some former students of New College.



According to one official, there was a credible input to show that a small group had organised itself in Tamil Nadu willing to go to Syria. This group had planned three months of physical training prior to the trip. Among the compensation offered was Rs. 20,000 a month to the family of the jihadis, and Rs. 20 lakh in case they died. It is not clear who was offering the money, one official said.

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Printable version | Nov 30, 2020 7:49:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/is-files-a-tale-of-two-friends-one-makes-it-to-syria-the-other-cools-his-heels-in-jail/article7900874.ece

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