Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has detained a suicide bomber of the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis), for allegedly planning to carry out an attack in India in response to a perceived insult to Mohammed, Islam's prophet. His handlers assigned the suicide bomber, identified as Azamov, the sole task of killing suspended Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Nupur Sharma, top intelligence sources said.
The member of Isis, an outfit banned in Russia, was preparing a suicide attack against "one of the representatives of the ruling circles of India", the Russian state-run TASS news agency reported, citing the public relations arm of FSB. The report did not divulge further details of the intended target.
The FSB identified and detained the Isis member, a citizen of a central Asian country. According to the Russian intelligence service, an Isis militant honcho recruited Azamov to act as a suicide bomber while he was in Turkey from April to June.
"His indoctrination was carried out remotely via Telegram messenger accounts and during personal meetings in Istanbul with an IS representative," FSB’s public relations arm said.
Born in 1992, Azamov holds that Sharma had insulted his religion's prophet and hence should be eliminated, said sources. As part of the plan, he was sent to Russia to get an Indian visa. The handlers assured him of local assistance on arriving in New Delhi, they said.
During his interrogation, Azamov said that he was radicalised online and that he had not met any of the terrorist leaders. He alleged he was sent to Russia as part of the second leg of the operation, said sources.
A video of the man’s interrogation, which was released by the FSB, showed him saying that he had sworn allegiance to the Isis "amir" or leader in April, after which he underwent special training. The man was given the task of travelling to Russia, acquiring the necessary documents and "flying to India to commit a terrorist act", the FSB said. "I was supposed to be given things there [India] to commit a terrorist attack at the behest of the IS for insulting Prophet Mohammed," the video showed the man as saying.
"The man planned to commit an act of terrorism against a member of India’s ruling circles by blowing himself up," TASS reported.
Both Isis and al Qaeda have played up the issue of controversial remarks against Mohammed by two former BJP spokespersons. An edited video of the televised debate that Sharma had participated in was circulated by Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair, which became a part of a toolkit that was sent to all Islamic countries.
After the remarks were widely condemned by Muslim countries, especially in the Middle East, the BJP removed the spokespersons from their positions. NSA Ajit Doval went to the extent of assuring them that Sharma would be taught a lesson of her lifetime. Since the toolkit went viral, Sharma has received several threats from different parts of the world, where callers said they would rape and/or kill her.
Nupur Sharma facing constant threats to her life and honour
Foreign intelligence inputs about Azamov, other terrorists
On 27 July, a foreign anti-terror agency informed India about a bomber arrested in Russia. The agency said that two suicide bombers, from Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, were ready for the terrorist attack in India, said sources. One of them was based in Turkey.
The agency told India that the terrorists would come through Russia and their visa application would go to the Russian embassy in Moscow or some other consulate in August, sources said. These details were shared also with Russia, which led to his detention by the Russian FSB, said sources.
"It has been established that a foreigner in the period from April to June 2022 while on the territory of the Republic of Turkey was recruited by one of the leaders of the ITO ‘IS’ as a suicide bomber. His indoctrination was carried out remotely through the accounts of the messenger Telegram and during personal meetings in Istanbul by a representative of the terrorist organisation," the Russian security agency statement said.
What has India done with the information?
As Indian agencies got the inputs, the anti-terrorism squad (ATS) held meetings across the country to break the backbone of the IS network. The agency then started a continuous crackdown on Isis.
In two days, at least 35 places were raided and people were taken into custody.
Isis-Khorasan, which is based in Afghanistan, had threatened to carry out attacks in India in response to the controversial remarks against the Prophet Mohammed. Earlier, al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent threatened to carry out suicide attacks in New Delhi, Mumbai, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh in response to the comments that Mohammed had married a minor girl and consummated the marriage with her when she was still a minor, an assertion backed by both history and authentic hadiths although Islam does not consider a menstruating girl to be a minor anymore.