A UN report prepared by its Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, which tracks ISIS, Al-Qaida and associated individuals and entities, said that “significant numbers” of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorists are operating in Kerala and Karnataka.Al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) reportedly operates under the Taliban umbrella from Himruz, Helmand and Kandahar provinces of Afghanistan and has between 150 and 200 members from Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and Pakistan” under the leadership of Osama Mahmood. The report also warned that AQIS is planning retaliation operations in the region to avenge the death of its former leader, Asim Umar, who was killed in the joint US-Afghan military raid in 2019. According to the report, Hind Wilayah, the ISIS’ Indian affiliate, which was announced on May 10 2019 has between 180 and 200 members.
Responding to the report, Minister for Home Affairs Basavaraj Bommai has said that the state government has taken a serious note of the report and has decided to “strengthen the internal security of the state.” Additionally, the Director General of Police has been asked to submit a detailed report on the issue. Earlier this month, the National Investigation Agency had filed a charge sheet against 17 suspects, who allegedly formed a group initiated by IS terrorists to carry out terrorist attacks, in a Bengaluru special court. The NIA had stated that the accused from Kerala and Karnataka had floated a terrorist organisation “Al Hind” which was planning to execute terror strikes in South India.
The ISIS does not have any organisational presence in India, but the threat to carry out attacks through affiliates, indoctrinated youth, IS inspired local terror outfits remains high. Data reveals that 60-70 pro IS cases in India have been from Kerala. Last year, the Home Ministry reported that a total of 155 operatives and sympathisers of ISIS had been arrested and suggested coastal states and Union Territories to enhance surveillance and patrolling along the coastline.
The world has come to realise that ISIS continues to pose a great threat beyond its heartland in Iraq and Syria, where it continues to wage an insurgency. There are renewed fears that they will capitalise on the global instability induced by the pandemic to carry out terrorist acts. The attacks on April 17 in the Philippines where ISIS linked gunmen opened fire on a military convoy, killing 11 troops only confirm these fears. The 10th report of the Secretary General on the threat posed by ISIS to international peace and security and the range of United Nations efforts in support of Member States in countering the threat said that even though the Afghan authorities took custody of more than 1,400 terrorist sympathisers, the terror group remains a threat to regional security. Since COVID 19 was declared a pandemic, the WHO together with UN Security Council Counter Terrorism Committee have identified several short-term opportunities for terrorist actors who now have integrated the pandemic into their propaganda to exploit widespread dissatisfaction for their own purposes and are using social media more actively to promote radicalisation and violence. Strict vigilance against terror outfits is the need of the hour.
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