KOCHI: Though NIA and intelligence agencies are hunting down various groups linked with the Islamic State (IS) in Kerala, there are still sympathisers of the terror group in the state about whom the agencies remain clueless. Even as the intelligence agencies could successfully penetrate the social media groups of the IS-linked modules, several persons who were active under various pseudonyms are yet to be identified.
It was in 2016, the NIA arrested seven youths, who were members of the IS module named Ansar-ul-Khilafah Kerala, during a clandestine meeting at Kanakamala in Kannur. The group had formed six chat groups on Telegram app to discuss IS ideology, plan attacks and further IS operations in the state. There were over 25 members in these groups and only around 15 of them could be identified. The remaining members have proved elusive for the agencies.
“For instance, there were persons active on Telegram groups using pseudo names like Manchester United, Bilal, Hashim Ul Haq, Abu Sumayah and Abu Isa. They used to chat in Malayalam. But their real identities are yet to be revealed. Whether these persons are in Kerala or have moved to Syria or Afghanistan also cannot confirmed,” an officer said.
Bilal and Hashim Ul Haq were the most active on the Telegram groups- Bab-Al-Nur and Darul Fiqr. The unidentified persons were also active on other chat groups-The gate, Playground, Knowledge and Thasveeb. Thasveeb was formed to plan a poison attack at Kodaikanal and Knowledge was formed to plan an attack on BJP leader M T Ramesh.
“On most occasions, it was seen that Bilal and Hashim Ul Haq initiated the conversations in the chat groups. They were active in instigating other members to further IS operations and plan attacks. Manchester United also took part in conversations on Telegram group- Bab-Al-Nur,” an officer said.
Even after numerous arrests, agencies are still cautious about IS roots spreading in Kerala. “The threat of IS activities in Kerala still exists. More than those who went abroad to perform Hijra (holy migration) and joined the IS, the persons following IS ideology while choosing to stay back in Kerala pose a threat to society. As IS has lost territories in Iraq and Syria, it has urged its operatives to do violent form of jihad by staying back in their respective countries,” an officer said.
Since 2015, over 50 persons from across Kerala are suspected to have moved to Syria and Afghanistan to join the IS. Majority of the recruits were reportedly killed in the conflict. NIA has already approached Interpol which has issued a red-corner notice to track down the IS operatives. A four-member IS module - one of the operatives was planning a fidayeen (suicide) attack in the state - was busted by NIA recently.
Chatsecure app gaining popularity among IS operatives
Even though IS operatives mostly preferred Telegram app for communication, lately they have started using Chatsecure app for passing information. The NIA investigating various IS cases in Kerala could retrieve chat details from Telegram app after recovering the mobile phones of the accused. However, the agency failed to secure any information about the discussion made through Chatsecure app. Fearing leakage of information from chats on Telegram, the IS leadership came out with a list of secure apps - Chatsecure, Signal, Silent Text, Silent Phone, LinPhone and Surespot - which should be used by its operatives. NIA found that Chatsecure app is commonly used by IS operatives now.