An alarming number of Indians have been linked with ISIS in the past year, with rising concern among the national security establishment about the home-grown recruitment processes of these men and women.
A CNN-IBN report in August this year quoted sources saying that the terror outfit is "recruiting poor Muslims in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Jammu and Kashmir."
The report quotes unnamed national security officials as saying that over "100 Indian men could have already joined the ISIS in Iraq". Security agencies reportedly told the television channel that ISIS is "radicalising poor Muslims through online videos," and this recruitment drive had been going on since last year.
Four boys from Mumbai went missing in Iraq earlier in May this year, and were believed to have joined ISIS after being radicalised by a small-time businessman in Mumbai. While one of them, Arif Fayyaz Majeed, was first suspected to have died fighting for the terror outfit, he returned home last month, after reportedly becoming disillusioned with ISIS.
Majeed, an engineering student, had left a handwritten letter to his family saying “fighting has been enjoined upon you,” according to an Indian Express report.
As a result, earlier this month young, single Muslim men under 30 years of age were debarred from getting a pilgrimage visa to Iraq.
In June this year, a Tamil Nadu-born Singapore resident, Haji Fakkurudin Usman Ali, was reported to be fighting for ISIS in Syria.
Meanwhile, Indian security agencies said in July that they were monitoring the activities of 18 Indian youth who had joined ISIS and were currently based in Iraq and Syria. A couple of months later it emerged that around 15 young Indians from Hyderabad, including a girl, wanted to join ISIS ranks.
In August this year, two people were arrested in Tamil Nadu for being part of a group photo wearing ISIS t-shirts.
Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri released a video in September this year, announcing the creation of an Indian branch of his militant group to "raise the flag of jihad" across South Asia. It was seen as a snub to the Islamic State, as the two groups fell out last year when ISIS expanded in Syria.
The Indian government has indicated that if Indians who have joined ISIS in the past return, they may not be arrested. How to treat returning ISIS fighters is a dilemma that governments across the world are facing.