Mohammed Shafi Armar, the fugitive chief recruiter for ISIS in the Indian subcontinent, was today named a 'Specially Designated Global Terrorist' by the US, becoming the first Indian leader of the dreaded terror outfit to be put on the American terror watch-list.
In a statement, the US State Department explained Shafi Armar's inclusion in the list. "He has cultivated a group of dozens of ISIS sympathisers who are involved in terrorist activities across India, such as plotting attacks, procuring weapons, and identifying locations for terrorist training camps." They described him as the "leader and head recruiter in India for the Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) group, ISIS."
Shafi Armar hails from Bhatkal, a small town in coastal Karnataka. His elder brother, Sultan Armar, was the one who encouraged him to join the Indian Mujahideen terror outfit. The two brothers were initiated into IM by Riyaz Bhatkal, the outfit's founder.
While his elder brother Sultan, who died in 2015, was an active IM operative, Shafi Armar was in charge of media operations, sharing of literature and propagating ideology.
Shafi Armar was said to have left for Pakistan along with his elder brother after a crackdown on Indian Mujahideen cadres. The Bhatkal brothers were already in Pakistan and it was decided that they would go to Oman and set up a base to recruit operatives from India.
However the Armar brothers soon fell out with the Bhatkal brothers and, as ISIS was gaining ground around then, they decided to pledge their allegiance to the group. Yasin Bhatkal, who was arrested in Nepal in 2013, spoke about Armar brothers' ISIS links during his interrogation.
The brothers floated the Ansar ul-Tawhid and began posting ISIS literature online. They were eventually picked up by ISIS as their India recruiters. While, Sultan Armar went to the field, Shafi Armar used his skills online to indoctrinate youths in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Shafi Armar was also responsible for recruiting and training operatives to carry out the November 2015 Paris attacks and the March 2016 attacks in Brussels.
At present, his location his unknown. There have been reports of his death in drone attacks or in attacks by allied forces but no conclusive proof has been made available yet.
Armar goes by many aliases such as 'Chhote Maula,' 'Anjan Bhai,' and 'Yousuf al-Hindi' according to an Interpol Red Corner notice issued against the 30-year-old.
Armar first drew the National Investigative Agency's attention when the latter was probing a module of suspected ISIS cadres in Ratlam in Madhya Pradesh.
Questioned by NIA, the ISIS operatives revealed that Armar was trying to radicalise young men and recruiting them for Jund ul Khalifa-e-Hind.
The NIA chargesheeted Armar and five others for planning to carry out terror attacks in Delhi. The United Arab Emirates has deported three Indians for allegedly helping Shafi Armar.
With inputs from PTI
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