In the backdrop of the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka, the National Investigations Agency (NIA) on Sunday carried out raids mainly at three places in Kerala, two in Kasaragod and one in Palakkad. NIA also carried out searches at private houses and questioned three suspects. The three Muslim youth, who are in touch with Islamic State recruiters, are believed to have links with those who left for Sri Lanka and other countries to join the ISIS.
The NIA had busted an ISIS module in Kasaragod last year and arrested a 25-year-old Salafi terrorist Habeeb Rehman. Further investigation revealed that several other Muslim youngsters from the state had left to join the ISIS.
According to Indian Express, the NIA had arrested six for suspected links with the IS, including R Ashiq, Ismail, Salavuddin, Jafar Sadiq Ali, Shahul Hameed, Shamsuddin.
The suspects were found to be in touch with Abdul Rashid Abdulla alias Abu Isa, a Kozhikode youth who had joined the IS in 2016. “The three persons are suspected to have links with some of the accused persons in the 2016 case,” NIA IG Alok Mittal explained to media.
In the Sunday raids, the NIA has recovered many digital devices including mobile phones, SIM cards, memory cards, pen drives. The agency has also retrieved diaries with handwritten notes in Arabic and Malayalam, DVDs of Zakir Naik, untitled DVDs, CDs with religious speeches, books authored by Zakir Naik and Syed Kutheb.
According to Sri Lankan military sources, Zahran Hashim, the mastermind of the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka, spent substantial time in Kerala and other south Indian states. Investigators identified Hashim as the leader of the National Thowheed Jamaath (NTJ), the Islamic terrorist outfit that executed the blasts. The NIA had found a video of Zahran Hashim, suspected to have been recorded in Tamil Nadu, on the phone of one of the suspects held in Coimbatore. In the video, Hashim reportedly talked about ‘a big job he was about to pull off, without any details, and exhorted Muslims from Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Sri Lanka to fight for the cause of Islam’.
On April 21, 2019, Easter Sunday, three Christian churches across Sri Lanka and three luxury hotels in Colombo were targeted in a series of coordinated terrorist suicide bombings. The Islamic State claimed responsibility of the deadliest terrorist attack that left 250 people killed and hundreds more injured.
Many of the ISIS recruits and ultra-Salafis had visited various locations in Sri Lanka before reaching their final destinations in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. In 2016, there were reports that ‘Sri Lanka was emerging as the favourite destination of a section of Malayalee Salafis who are on the pursuit of ‘real Islam’ and believe that scholars in Kerala lack correct understanding of the religion’.