A French police team arrived in Kochi in the early hours of Wednesday to question an alleged Islamic State-returned terror operative Subhani Haja Moideen as part of investigation into 2015 Paris terror attack.
During interrogation Moideen, lodged in Viyyur central jail, told the National Investigation Agency (NIA) that he had interacted with some ultras who masterminded Paris attack like Abdel Hamid Abaaoud during his brief stay in Syria and Iraq, said sources with the NIA. The NIA had later alerted the French investigation team.
An NIA court in Kochi later granted permission to the French team to quiz Moideen, a resident of Thodupuzha in Idukki district. The NIA had facilitated the French team as per the mutual legal assistance treaty signed by both countries.
Moideen, an accused in Kanakamala terror plot in Kannur that intended to target many leaders of south India, had told the NIA that he had fought for IS in Iraq and Syria in 2015. Reached Iraq via Turkey he told investigators that he was trained at an IS camp in Raqqa (a city in war-torn Syria) before being inducted into a terror module. He told interrogators that he fought for an IS regiment called Omer Kathi Caliph commanded by Abu Sulaimani Al Francisse.
During his six-month stay in Iraq in 2015 (April to September) he told interrogators that some of the masterminds of attacks in Europe like Abdel Hamid Abaaoud, Abdeslam and Mohamad Usman visited his commander Al Francisse and he had interacted with some of them. A Belgian-Moroccan Abaaoud was considered mastermind behind Nov 2015 Paris attack and was later killed in an encounter and two others are reported to be in jail in France.
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In the attack in Paris on Nov 13 night a team of gunmen and suicide bombers hit a concert hall, a stadium, a restaurant and two others places in copycat attacks killing 130 people and maiming hundreds of others.
According to NIA sources Moideen, belonging to a middle-class family, worked in his family cloth shop in Thodupuzha after dropped out from his college. When he turned to alcohol in big way his family forced him to marry. To wean him from alcohol his wife later advised him to take up religious studies and he turned a small-time religious scholar. He told interrogators that later he was attracted to teachings of Anwar al Awalaki, one of the mentors of Al Qaeda and started chatting with others through Telegram app.
Radicalised, he told NIA, he flew to Istanbul in Turkey in April 2015 and a few days later he was taken to Syrian border by his handlers. He said later he was shifted to Raqqa and given arms training. After three weeks of intense training, he said, he was sent to Mosul (Iraq) and enrolled in a team led by a French-speaking leader. During one of the attacks he saw one his aides burned alive before his eyes and he fled battle scene but was captured by other IS militants.
He said later he was produced before a ‘judge’ and jailed for a month. He was freed from jail after he promised his handlers he was ready for another round of training. He said after two-week training he was sent back on the promises he will continue his activities back home in India. Once reached in Istanbul in September 2015 he lodged a police complaint saying his travel documents were stolen during a religious trip in Turkey. Later the Indian embassy arranged him an emergency visa.
Quietly returned to his native place he told his relatives he was on a religious trip. He was arrested a year later in 2016 when the NIA was investigating the Kanakamala IS module case_ the module was busted on Oct 2, 2016 when NIA sleuths raided a hideout and arrested six persons who were planning to target prominent persons including judges, RSS/BJP leaders, synagogue in Kochi and Islamic reformers. During interrogation he reportedly said he came across more than 100-IS sympathizers/fighters hailing from India adding most came through middle-east and Turkey.
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