‘Terror group NTJ wanted separate Islamic confederate in Sri Lanka’: Official

Central agencies responsible for countering the influence of Islamic State in India have found that Sri Lanka-based National Towheed Jama’at (NTJ, a Tamil Nadu-based outfit and some people from Kerala were in regular touch for over a year to create a “separate Islamic confederation” in the region, a counterterrorism official claimed.

The official, however, said the Tamil Nadu-based organisation doesn’t seem to be involved in Sri Lanka attacks but it was in touch with radical elements, an angle which needs to be probed further.

The IS on Tuesday owned up the Easter Sunday bombing in the island nation that killed more than 350 people. The NTJ was led by Maulvi Zahran Bin Hashim, the alleged mastermind of Sunday attacks. He blew himself up at Shangri La hotel in Colombo, primary investigations have revealed. The Indian agencies are also working on a Bangladeshi link to the-IS inspired modules that have tried or are trying to establish a base in south India.

The National Investigation Agency had claimed last year that over a dozen IS recruits from Tamil Nadu and Kerala had either travelled to Sri Lanka to get radical Islamic lessons before moving to Islamic State-held territory in Nangarhar province (Afghanistan or were in touch with Hashim for Jehadi activities, as first reported by HT.

Those who travelled to Sri Lanka include Ashfak Majeed from Kasargod (went to Sri Lanka in February 2016 along with his wife and daughter, Abdul Rashid Abdulla from Kozhikode (went to SL with his wife and daughter in 2016 and Palakkad resident Bestin Vincent who left with his wife in December 2015. They all were investigated by NIA following a first information report (FIR number 04/2016 was registered in Mumbai.

Similarly, the Sri Lanka link was found by NIA in its 33/2016 FIR lodged in Coimbatore. In this case, six IS suspects — Mohammed Ashiq A, Ismail S, Samsudeen, Mohammed Salauddin S, Jafar Shadik Ali and Shahul Hameed have been named. They were in touch with Hashim and videos recovered from them gave a hint to agencies about a big terror plan in Sri Lanka, investigators claimed.

The NIA is now is re-examining documents and evidence collected by it while probing IS modules in the southern states to see if Hashim had radicalised other Indian IS members as well. The central agency has so far arrested over 70 IS members since 2014 from different states but maximum number of youngsters influenced by IS ideology are from Kerala and Tamil Nadu.