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Planning strikes since 2009, angry over bias: Key accused in IS plot

New Delhi: The key accused in the alleged Islamic State module busted by NIA last week, Mufti Suhail, has told interrogators that he was planning “jihadist activities” since 2009 due to what he called “persecution of Muslims in India” but did not have the wherewithal to carry out attacks, sources said.

This is significant given that the Islamic State, although first set up as an Al Qaeda affiliate way back in 2006, hit international headlines only in 2014 when it seized territories in Syria and Iraq.

The 29-year-old Islamic preacher, who was arrested by NIA last week from his home in Jaffrabad, Delhi, told interrogators that he had been hurt by events such as the Babri Masjid demolition and believed that Muslims were discriminated against in the country. He has pointed this out as one of the reasons why Muslims do not get jobs in the country, sources said.

“Suhail is highly radicalised and justifies his actions. He said he had been motivated because Muslims suffer injustice in the country. He was earlier attracted to Al Qaeda and Taliban but could never approach any of them. With Islamic State recruiting online, he found a handler who guided him through his latest adventure,” an investigator said.

The officer said that Suhail appeared to be the most “motivated” in the group. “He alone was in touch with this online handler who guided him to carry out attacks in India. He, in turn, gathered friends and acquaintances who are in the age group of 20-30,” the officer said.

Investigators pointed out that this was unlike some other IS-affiliated groups busted by NIA in the past few years. “Most of those arrested earlier had plans to go to Syria or Iraq. Suhail’s concern, however, is largely India,” an investigator said.

According to the NIA, a few months ago, Suhail assumed the online identity of Abu Basir al Khurasani to trawl the Net for content related to Islamic State. He soon met an online entity named Abu Malik Peshawari on Facebook. In due course, NIA claimed, Peshawari convinced Suhail to carry out attacks in the name of the Islamic State and also became his guide. This handler is suspected to be in Afghanistan. Suhail hails from Amroha where his father was engaged in religious studies but he has hardly lived there. Over the past one and a half months, however, he began living in his ancestral home in the Moullan Mohalla of Amroha town. NIA sources said he moved there primarily to build his group which has several members from Amroha.

“He was looking to rent a place in the town to hold meetings and assemble bombs since he could not have done it at his ancestral home which is a joint family property,” the officer said.

After graduating in religious studies, which included a brief stint at the Deoband seminary, Suhail was teaching at various madrassas. He has told investigators that he was attracted to pan-Islamic ideologies of various groups and believed Muslims were persecuted across the globe.

“He talks at length about the Russian invasion of Afghanistan followed by the American assault. He has also expressed concern about Chechnya strife and the Palestinian struggle. He has said that the only solution to all these problems is establishing Islamic rule under Sharia law,” the officer said.