An Indian citizen — probably Muhsin from Kerala — was among the suicide bombers who had killed 25 Sikh worshippers in Kabul on Wednesday. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has named one of the three terrorists who attacked Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib. The ISIS refers to him by the name of Abu Khalid al-Hindi.
The veracity of this claim of attack by the ISIS is disputed. The Indian intelligence agencies say that the attackers in Kabul were terrorists of the Pakistan-sponsored Haqqani network and not ISIS. However, the part where it names recruits from India may be true. The information that several neo-converts from Kerala and other parts of southern India had joined the ISIS has been in the public domain for years. The part that is problematic is where a media house claims that a man from Kerala among their recruits was alive until 25 March.
ISIS published a photo of the man in the 26 March edition of its mouthpiece Al Naba. In the picture, this man is seen holding an AK-56 assault rifle and giving a tauheed (or tawhid) salute with a finger [The Arabic word tawhid (توحيد) refers to the indivisible oneness concept of monotheism in Islam; it’s a sign many Islamic terrorists make on camera to spread their message].
Three ISIS militants had opened fire and hurled grenades at around 200 worshippers at the gurdwara at 7.45 AM on 25 March. Afghan security forces ended the siege after a six-hour gun battle. All three attackers were killed and 80 hostages were freed in the incident.
If Abu Khalid al-Hindi is indeed Muhsin, it was the second Indian suicide bomber to join ISIS. But was it Muhsin or Sajid?
Kerala, yes, but Muhsin or Sajid?
According to India Today, police intelligence sources in Kerala say that the photograph is of 21-year-old Muhammad Muhsin. Kerala Police had said he had been killed in a drone attack in Afghanistan last year.
Muhsin, an engineering student from Thrikarkipur in the Kasaragod district, was killed on 18 June last year — as per intelligence inputs police intelligence had received.
In August 2015, ISIS operative Abu Yusuf al-Hindi alias Shafi Armar was killed in a suicide bomb attack in Raqqa. Armar, a native of Bhatkal in Uttara Kannada district, was previously a member of the Indian Mujahideen. He was the first Indian to be specifically declared a global terrorist by the US.
Muhsin had moved from Dubai to Afghanistan’s ISIS-operated camps where he was working as an active member in the Telegram group hired by Shajeer Mangalassery, an engineer at the National Institute of Technology (NIT) Kozhikode who had moved from Dubai to Afghanistan.
Mangalassery was killed in a US drone strike in Afghanistan in June 2017.
In 2014, an Abu Bakr al Baghdadi-led proto-terrorist group had captured some territory in Syria and Iraq of the size of Great Britain and declared themselves the government of that region.
By 2019, Russia, Syria, Iraq and the US eliminated ISIS in their respective areas of military dominance. Last year, American special forces killed Baghdadi too.
Baghdadi and his men had found shelter with his group in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces of Afghanistan amid increasing strifes in West Asia. A UN report estimated that approximately 2,500 to 4,000 ISIS terrorists were active in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces during the peak of their activities and regional influence.
The other version
An IANS report states, “… al-Hindi was Mohammed Sajid Kuthirulmmal, a shopkeeper from (the) Padne area of Kasaragod in Kerala who was wanted in a 2016 NIA case and had an Interpol red notice against him.”
According to the aforementioned agency report, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) found out that a certain Abdul Rashid, who had gone missing with his wife Ayisha from Kerala in 2016, a woman Yasmeen and others who had joined ISIS in 2015 were furthering the ISIS agenda in Kerala and other places of India.
The Kabul gurdwara terror attack suspect Sajid was in a group of 15 people who had fled from Kerala to join the ISIS in the Nangarhar province in Afghanistan.
The NIA listed Sajid as an accused and absconder but strangely did not file a charge sheet against him.
Unlike the terrorists named in the India Today report, those in Sajid’s group survived the attacks by NATO and Afghan forces on ISIS in Nangarhar.
“The mobile communication between the absconders with their relatives, over internet-based social media platforms, recovered during the investigation, established that Sajid was staying at the same place as another ISIS recruit who had fled from Kerala and had joined the terror group along with Abdul Rashid,” IANS reported.
Recruits from India
About 98 families had migrated from Kerala to join the Khorasan unit of the ISIS in Nangarhar in May-June, 2016. Thirty of the migrants joined the terror outfit directly from Kerala and 70 joined them from the Gulf with their families. Of these, seven people died in airstrikes in Afghanistan during the last three years.
The US forces killed Rashid Abdullah, who had led a 21-member team from Kerala to Afghanistan, in May 2018 with an airstrike.
Rashid Abdullah and Shajeer Mangalassery were instrumental in radicalising people from Kerala under the ISIS module.
In the second week of July 2019, security forces killed Saifuddin Kunj Muhammad from Thururangadi in Malappuram district.
The Kerala Police had uncovered the ISIS’s Indian network when people from Kasaragod and Palakkad districts visited Afghanistan between 21 May and 5 June 2016 with their families. Two of them were medical doctors and four were Christians who had converted to Islam.
The terror roots in Kerala
The Islamic State was established in India in 2014 in Nangarhar and Kunar provinces. Since 2016, around 250 Indians had joined the organization. Of these, 98 were from Kerala.
Security forces in Afghanistan have broken the back of ISIS in the rocky country. The militant group was kicked out of sanctuaries in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces. Hundreds of terrorists were killed or captured during the operation. The complete information about many of them has not been received yet.