India arrests ‘Facebook friend’ of Zahran over IS links

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The National Investigation Agency (NIA) of India on Wednesday carried out searches at seven locations in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore over a suspected link between Islamic State (IS) modules in Coimbatore and Sri Lanka. One suspect has been arrested by the probe agency.

The man who was arrested was Facebook friends Zahran Hashim, the Sri Lanka Easter Sunday suicide bomber. The arrested, identified as 32-year-old Mohammed Azarudeen, had also been sharing radical content attributed to Zahran Hashim over the social media. Mohammed Azarudeen is the owner of a tour and travel company in Coimbatore. He is said to be have befriended Zahran Hashim, the man believed to be responsible for multiple bombings which killed over 250 people in Sri Lanka.

The prime accused Mohammed Azarudeen has been the leader of the Coimbatore IS module and has been maintaining the Facebook page “KhilafahGFX”, through which he had been propagating the ideology of IS. The raids come shortly after an NIA team visited Sri Lanka earlier this month in connection with two Indian IS modules with links in Sri Lanka.

During the searches, digital devices including 14 mobile phones, 29 SIM cards, 10 pen drives, three laptops, six memory cards, four hard disc drives, one internet dongle and 13 CDs/ DVDs besides one dagger, one electric baton, 300 air-gun pellets and a large number of incriminating documents and few pamphlets of Popular Front of India and Social Democratic Party of India, both under the scanner of security agencies, have been seized from the houses and workplaces of the accused persons.

However, top sources told India Today TV, the current raids pertain to a new FIR registered in May end with regard to the IS module. The NIA official said all those being raided were regularly viewing Zahran Hashim’s videos propagating terror. “All are young men in the age group of 25-30 who are tech-savvy and highly radical,” said the NIA official.

The raids which began at 6 am were carried out early Wednesday morning at seven locations in Coimbatore. An FIR was registered against seven persons including the main accused Mohammed Azarudeen. The others have been identified as Akram Sindhaa (26), Y Shiek Hidayathullah (38), Abubacker M (29), Saddam Hussain A (26) and Ibrahim alias Shahin Shah (28.

All six have been charged for propagating the ideology of proscribed terrorist organization IS on social media with the intention of recruiting vulnerable youth into the IS. They are believed to have been recruiting youth for carrying out terrorist attacks in South India especially in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

“They are in the 25-30 age group and are so tech-savvy that they have the ability to build complicated circuits just by watching internet tutorials on bomb-making,” a top official told India Today TV.

Meanwhile, one of the accused was found to have a link with a previous investigation into an IS module in Kerala’s Kasargod. Shahin Shah named in the FIR was found to have close links to another arrested accused Riyas Abubacker who had planned to conduct terror attacks in Kerala on behalf of the IS.

Accused persons are being questioned regarding the incriminating materials seized during the searches.