Operatives of the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) , which has claimed responsibility for the twin blasts outside the Kabul airport in Afghanistan, have been making attempts to recruit Indians for the past few years. The outfit comprises mainly former cadres of the Pakistan-based banned outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
The National Investigation Agency (NIA), in coordination with the intelligence agencies, has busted an Indian module which was in contact with some ISKP operatives, and also some others from Syria, Iraq and Africa, through an Instagram channel named ‘Chronicle Foundation’.
The channel had more than 5,000 members. Instigated by Pakistan-based recruiters, some members had attempted to join the outfit in Afghanistan via Iran in April 2019.
Since March, the NIA has conducted searches in Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka and Kerala, resulting in the arrest of 10 members of the module headed allegedly by Mohammed Ameen, who is from Malappuram in Kerala.
Radicalised through the posts circulated via social media platforms and messaging applications like Hoop and Telegram, they were recruiting new members and were also raising funds.
Earlier, after ISKP was floated in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan in 2015, more than two dozen Indians had flown out of the country to join the outfit.
While initially it was being projected as an Islamic State-affiliate, counter-terrorism experts now believe that ISKP is a smokescreen created to conceal the role of elements within Pakistan in raising a group for targeted strikes in Afghanistan while ensuring deniability. With the same objective, attempts were made to rope in Indians and highlight their involvement.
ISKP had claimed responsibility for the attack at a gurdwara in Kabul on March 25, 2020, carried out allegedly by an Indian national-led module. The person — identified as Mohammed Muhasin, originally from Kerala — was killed by the Afghan forces during the attack.
The United Nations Security Council, in its report this June, stated that the ISKP continued to pose a threat to Afghanistan and the wider region. However, last year, it had suffered losses in the Kunar and Nangarhar provinces and this had affected its ability to recruit and generate new funding. “This also raises doubts about its operational capability in Kabul,” said an official.
A counter-terrorism expert pointed out that the outfit’s former chief, Aslam Farooqi alias Abdullah Orokzai, is a Pakistani citizen. He was captured by Afghan forces in April 2020 in connection with the gurudwara attack. During interrogation, he confessed to his links with the LeT.
The same month, another key ISKP commander named Munib Mohammed was held. He also turned out to be a Pakistani national having links with the LeT and the Haqqani Network.
“What was the immediate fallout of the two blasts outside the Kabul airport in which more than 100 people were killed? Hours later, all the non-operational areas of the airport were taken over by the Taliban guards,” said a security agency official.