NEW DELHI: Two unidentified youth from South India may have joined al-Qaeda’s offshoot Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) in Syria, senior intelligence sources confirmed. A rival outfit of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al-Nusra was founded by Abu Mohammed al-Golani, a former protégé of IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in December 2011 during the Syrian uprising.
Sources said al-Nusra controls several towns in South Syria in Idlib, Homs and has been fighting against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. Although both the ISIS and Nusra are considered al-Qaeda offshoots, the latter is believed to be against the former’s views on the killing of Muslims.
The ideological differences and battle for supremacy in the region led to intense fighting between the two groups near Deir-ez-Zour last year. Though an informal truce is said to have been reached sometime in November, 2014, between Baghdadi and Golani, al-Nusra remains unaffiliated to the ISIS.
“One youth is from Kerala. Domicile of second youth is being verified. There are reports that a third youth may also have joined al-Nusra, we are examining the intelligence inputs and information received from friendly foreign agencies,” intelligence sources said.
The intelligence officials are puzzled by Indian youths joining al-Nusra as the outfit is not as attractive as the ISIS for foreign terrorists and remains loyal to al-Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Moreover, al-Nusra’s propaganda remains conservative whereas the IS with its lucrative pay and other offers like Jihadi brides and free housing remains the top recruiter. “In fact, intelligence received from foreign counterparts shows that many foreign terrorists with al-Nusra defected to ISIS because it offered double the salary. Intelligence reports suggest that Golani, a soccer lover, was paying $450 per month to foreign terrorists in his al-Nusra outfit while Baghdadi had offered $850 to those joining or defecting to ISIS,” said the sources adding that Indian youths may have joined al-Nusra probably after they were rejected by the ISIS because it considers Indian recruits inferior and unfit for its military units who sometimes keep them for menial jobs.
“But, in any situation, this is a worrying trend as it shows that once radicalised, the youths are looking to join any outfit to carry out terror activities,” the sources said.