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Mehdi’s focus was not India, say interrogators

‘His interest in Levantine region and Caliphate rule predates IS formation’

Mehdi Masroor Biswas, the alleged operator of the pro-IS Twitter handle @ShamiWitness, has “categorically” told interrogators that his focus was firmly on the Levantine region and that he “was not even interested” in India as he did not think it was possible to “launch the movement in India”, according to sources.

One of the interrogators, who had also questioned other terrorists such as Yasin Bhatkal, said Mehdi was the first “purely” global terror ideologue they had come across.

“Most of the terrorists I have interrogated earlier spoke of atrocities against the community in the country, and are passionate about imposing Sharia law. But this man talks only about a global Islamic State and is almost uninterested about the subcontinent,” one of the officials said. Mehdi is reportedly categorical that he was only interested in the Levantine region as he believed that the region was strategically key to re-establish the Islamic Caliphate rule in the world.

His interest in the Levantine region and the radical Caliphate rule predated the formation of Islamic State (IS), sources said. While IS was formed in 2011, the Twitter account was activated in July 2009. Mehdi has apparently said that he named the Twitter handle @ShamiWitness as Shami in Arabic had string connotations to Levantine region, to which he wanted to be witness.

The official said though Mehdi had joined Twitter in July 2009, he was earlier using the handle @ElSaltador, which was changed to @ShamiWitness, probably corresponding to the emergence of the IS in 2011. However, both the Twitter handles were from the same account opened using the e-mail id elsaltador@gmail.com.

One of the investigators said Twitter India officials had given them all details they had sought about the account.

An official said instigating tweets about jihadi terrorism were also tweeted during the pre-IS period between 2009 and 2011, when Mehdi used @ElSaltador handle. He said most of the tweets even then concentrated on the Levantine region.

The police are trying to evaluate Mehdi’s tweets before and after the emergence of the IS, so as to find out if there was any radical shift in his ideological convictions.

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Printable version | Feb 27, 2020 7:01:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/mehdis-focus-was-not-india-say-interrogators/article6698284.ece

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