India steps up surveillance on ISIS propaganda: over 150 Indians under the scanner

NEW DELHI (TIP) : Nearly 150 Indians are on the radar of intelligence agencies for actively following Islamic State propaganda and engaging on social media with pro-IS elements, according to government sources.

A majority of those under surveillance are from the southern states, sources said.

Though agencies are not planning any action or crackdown on the youth who may be showing a more-than-keen interest in pro-IS websites or social media posts, the tracking is meant to pre-empt the possibility of their becoming indoctrinated enough to join the IS. As and when those under surveillance show signs to radicalization, an intervention may be made to alert their families and facilitate their counseling, if need be.

Online tracking of pro-IS websites, Twitter handles and Facebook accounts is a key part of India’s counter-IS strategy. Agencies, with the help of experts from the National Technical Research Organization (NTRO), track online traffic related to IS across the country, and constantly flag any unusual trend or activity.

Sources in the security establishment told TOI that 23 Indians, including about a dozen from the diaspora, had joined the IS and traveled to Iraq-Syria for ‘jihad’. These include four youth from Kalyan, one of whom Areeb Majeed returned to India and is now in custody here, a Kashmiri based in Australia, a Singapore-based Indian, an Oman-based man and one person each from Karnataka and Telangana and a journalist from Kerala.

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Of the six Indian recruits believed to have got killed in IS territory are three Indian Mujahideen cadre including Bada Sajid and Sultan Ajmer Shah who joined the outfit from Pakistan, two from Maharashtra and one from Telangana.As many as 30 Indians, including a woman based in Delhi, have been prevented from joining the IS. Besides, around 8-10 Kerala-origin men and an alleged woman recruiter, Afsha Jabeen, were recently deported by the UAE after they were found to be in touch with active IS members.

A senior government officer said there was threat of an Indian IS recruit indulging in a “lone wolf” attack here upon return from Iraq-Syria. “Unlike other countries that strip their citizens who join and fight for IS of their passports, we have no such plan. We’d rather let them return and intercept them here,” said the officer.

In an advisory sent on Monday, the home ministry had warned of the possibility of an IS-sponsored terrorist action on Indian soil. “Though the IS has not been able to establish any significant presence in India, its success in radicalizing some youth, attracting certain sections of the local population or the Indian diaspora to physically participate in its activities or the possibility of piggy-backing on terrorist groups operating in India have opened up the possibility of IS-sponsored terrorist action on Indian territory,” said the advisory issued to all the states and Union Territories.

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