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One Terror Suspect Shot Dead, Five Arrested Following Ujjain Train Blast, In 'ISIS-Inspired' Attack

The Islamic State is expected to move towards Afghanistan, Pakistan after its defeat in Iraq and Syria, say experts

08/03/2017 6:28 PM IST | Updated 08/03/2017 8:04 PM IST
Pawan Kumar / Reuters

Indian security forces shot down one terror suspect at a hideout in Lucknow, and arrested five others who are allegedly behind the bombing of the Bhopal-Ujjain passenger train in Madhya Pradesh yesterday that left nine injured. The bombing appears to be the first Islamic State-inspired attack in India by a group of "self-radicalised" youth, according to authorities.

The terror suspect shot down in Lucknow was identified as Saifullah by the authorities.

Top union home ministry officials told Huffington Post, India, while it's premature to call the bombing an ISIS-sponsored attack, in all probability, the terrorist suspects were inspired by the Islamic State. The investigations have been handed over to the National Investigative Agency.

A huge quantity of arms and ammunition, a route map of the Indian Railways, and propaganda material of the Islamic State were recovered from the Lucknow hideout - in Haji Colony of Thakurganj- the site of stake out.

The Uttar Pradesh Police, which carried out the operation, said that efforts to get Saifullah to surrender, who had been holed up inside the house, had failed. The hideout was subsequently stormed early this morning by security forces and Safiullah killed.

CCTV footage led to the arrest of five suspects including that of a self-declared "emir" of the group, Atif Muzzaffar. Questioning of those suspects eventually led the security agencies to Lucknow.

Saifullah is believed to have left home a few months ago after a bitter fight with his father. He had, however, called up home a few days ago and said that he was moving to Saudi Arabia.

Top sources told HuffPost India that a group comprising youth in their early 20's had "radicalised themselves" using Islamic State material available on the internet and social media. None of the suspects of the radicalised module had left India, initial investigations have revealed.

Senior officials said, "Atiff Muzaffar had sold his land recently and was using the money to fund the group and buy weapons...Through the internet they were in touch with people who claimed themselves to be Islamic State fighters based in Syria and Iraq."

Investigators are now looking at whether the group had received any direct instructions from Islamic State terrorists to carry out the attack.

"We believe that the Internet communications through various platforms would be crucial," a top investigator said, adding "as of now, we don't have anything to suggest the terrorist [suspects] were being directed by the Islamic State."

According to sources, the self-radicalised group comprised nine people and "spoke to each other through Internet-based chat platforms." The hunt for the remaining suspects is still on.

Indian Security agencies have arrested 52 suspected Islamic State terrorists in the last few years. About 45 people -- including a group of 20 from the southern state of Kerala -- have left India to join the Islamic State in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Besides that, nearly 200 suspects are being watched by security agencies for being Islamic State sympathizers. Several have been prevented from leaving the country to join the Islamic State.

As a policy, India doesn't prosecute self-radicalised youth who haven't committed a crime. They are put through a de-radicalisation programme and allowed to join back society.

Earlier in 2014-15, in a preemptive strike by the National Investigative Agency, the security agencies arrested as many as 24 suspected self-radicalised Islamic State sympathisers. The group had allegedly received money from abroad to carry out strikes in India.

Youth inspired by the Islamic State had also struck at an up market cafe in Dhaka, Bangladesh last year that killed over 20 people and injured several others.

Clear and Present Danger

According to Vladimir Sotnikov, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Oriental Studies, Moscow, there is a need for a regional cooperative effort or a "joint task force" to tackle the rise of Da'esh.

"India and the neighbourhood is in clear and present danger from the Islamic State," said Sotnikov. "As Da'esh is defeated in Syria and Iraq, Islamic State will move to Afghanistan, Pakistan , Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan."

Sotnikov, who has been studying the Taliban and ISIS for many years, said there is "a strong possibility that large sections of the Taliban in Afghanistan -- which is now opposing the ISIS -- will ultimately be forced to accept and merge with the Islamic State."

"I see the capital of Islamic State moving to the ungoverned areas of Afghanistan in the near future," he said.

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