How ISIS Uses Social Media As A Hunting Ground For Recruits In India

22/03/2016 5:20 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
Hindustan Times via Getty Images
SRINAGAR, INDIA - JUNE 27: Kashmiri protesters displaying the flags of ISIS during a protest against alleged desecration of Jamia Masjid by police personnel yesterday after Friday prayers, on June 27, 2015 in Srinagar, India. Clashes broke out in several parts of downtown Srinagar on Saturday against the alleged desecration of Jamia Masjid by government forces yesterday. Reacting very sharply against police action, Auqaf Jamia Masjid, which functions under Mirwaiz, called for a shutdown in Srinagar followed by Geelani, Malik and Shah. (Photo by Waseem Andrabi/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Apart from the sheer brutality of its methods, what makes ISIS more terrifying than most other terrorist organizations is its use of boundary-breaking internet technology for attracting new recruits, planning attacks (through its own encrypted chat app, no less) and spreading its propaganda.

The group has also been spreading its virtual tentacles in India as well to propagate its message and recruit potential jihadis. In February this year, software engineer Mudabbir Mushtaq Shaikh was arrested along with several others by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). He was reportedly recruited by a Syria-based Indian who trawled through the internet looking for recruits in India. The modus operandi is reportedly to search for accounts of people who post on the topic of Islam and watch videos of fiery speeches by clerics so on. Such people are then traced, contacted and then wooed to join ISIS.

The modus operandi is reportedly to search for accounts of people who post on the topic of Islam and watch videos of fiery speeches...

Although Shaikh posted a bunch of stuff on his Facebook timeline, including software articles and videos of Paulo Coelho, he also demonstrated his interest in Islam, religious speeches and conspiracy theories about 9/11. In 2013, he came across an account run by a man called Yusuf al-Hindi. According to a detailed report in the Indian Express, the account was actually run by Muhammad Sultan Armar, a former Indian Mujahideen member and the leader of ISIS’s Indian cell. The two of them first met in a group called "Dajjal-e-Akbar" and started interacting. The NIA indicates that they started talking through Skype and Shaikh even downloaded jihadist material on Armar's suggestion. Armar disappeared for a while but reappeared in 2014 and they began the conversation again. When he was killed, his brother Shafi Armar picked up the thread.


Earlier this month, the NIA also arrested a 19-year-old mechanical engineering student in Durgapur, West Bengal, called Ashik Ahmed for his suspected connections with ISIS. He watched the video posted by Mohammad Nafees describing the plight of the Muslims in West Bengal and decided to contact him. Nafees told him that ISIS operates under the name Jund Al-Khalifa Al-Hind in India. Ahmed was later appointed chief of the West Bengal wing, NIA reported.

The NIA has arrested 24 people allegedly linked to ISIS so far. Minister of State for Home Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary said in Rajya Sabha, "ISIS is using various internet-based platforms for propaganda and to propagate its ideology. The intelligence and security agencies monitor the cyberspace closely to identify potential recruits and keep them under surveillance and take further action, if necessary."

According to this Times of India report India falls on the ‘world dominion map’ of ISIS.

The terrorist organization’s fondness for technology is well documented. In January, they launched an encrypted app to facilitate communications. Later, they incorporated a 'Help Desk' to evade Western authorities. A recent report suggests the Paris attackers used sophisticated tools like burner cellphones and encrypted laptops to eliminate any digital trail.

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