KOCHI: Following the busting of an ISIS module based in Kerala and arresting a Thrissur native, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has identified three more persons suspected to be part of the group.
The NIA arrested Mathilakath Kodayil Ashraf, also known as Ashif, a 36-year-old native of Thrissur, who was found hiding in Doddampalayam village in Erode. The arrest took place on Tuesday, and Ashif was produced before the NIA court in Kochi, where he was sent to NIA custody until July 27.
The investigation conducted by NIA revealed that the module was involved in furthering ISIS operations, including planning terror strikes in south India. The group, under the leadership of Ashif, had been active for at least two years and had several youths from Kerala as its members. They communicated through encrypted social media platforms, raising concerns about their activities.
Apart from Ashif, NIA has also accused Nabeel Ahamed, Shiyas T S, and Rahees P A aka Rayees, as part of the group. These individuals are currently being traced, and their interrogation is expected to reveal information about other members who are in hiding.
“The interrogation of Ashif will likely reveal information about other members of the group who are currently in hiding. We have received information about some of the suspects who will be taken into custody soon,” sources said.
The group engaged in various heists to arrange funds for ISIS activities in South India. NIA is investigating whether the group received aid through ISIS handlers abroad, particularly via online channels. The group had set targets on religious places and prominent personalities to create communal disharmony in Kerala and neighbour states, sources said.
The charges filed against the accused by NIA include IPC offences like conspiracy and promoting enmity between groups, as well as sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for collecting funds for terrorist activities, conspiracy, recruiting people for terrorist activities, being members of a terrorist group, supporting a terrorist group, and collecting funds for a terrorist organization. NIA may add more charges based on further interrogation and examination of electronic devices recovered during the probe.
In 2016, NIA busted a group called Ansarul Khalifa Kerala, which was also planning a terror strike targeting prominent personalities and religious places in South India. Some members of this group later migrated to ISIS territories in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, where many of them were killed in battle zones, further revealing ISIS’s roots in Kerala.