ISIS using modern technology to gain a foothold in Kashmir

Driven out of Iraqi city of Mosul and Syrian city of Raqqa, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is looking to spread elsewhere in the world. In India, the dreaded terror outfit has been selling its dreams of Islamic caliphate in Kashmir apart from eyeing Kerala as a potential territory. No wonder we have seen ISIS flags in Kashmir and Kerala.

A Hindustan Times report suggests that ISIS supporters and sympathisers in Kashmir have formed a group named Ansarul Khilafah (Soldiers of the caliphate) Jammu Kashmir to carry forward the terror outfit’s agenda. The group disseminates ISIS propaganda through the messaging service Telegram.

The group, which was reportedly created on 2 June, has number of manuals that provide information from handling weapons commonly used by terrorists such as AK-47 rifles and rocket-propelled grenades to making suicide vests and car bombs. Other materials shared in the telegram group include footage from high-profile terrorist attacks from across the world and CCTV footage from inside the Taj Hotel during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. This is being done with a clear attempt to inspire terror in the valley.

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Ansarul Khilafah Jammu Kashmir has called for ISIS supporters in Kashmir to come together under one banner and choose an ‘ameer’ (leader) and organise mounting attacks in the Valley. The group has segregated the tasks among its members. According to the division of labour, there would be mujahids (fighters) to spread terror, “medical man” to deal with injuries faced by mujahids, “scouts” for carrying out assessments before and after attacks, “fund raisers” to run terror activities and “media men” to “takes photos and videos of the terror strikes and propagate them heavily in social media”.

On 7 July, the Telegram group posted a video asking the “Muslim police personnel” in Jammu & Kashmir not to target the Islamic terrorists and urged them to use their weapons at the “enemy of Islam” instead.

On 18 July, the group put out instructions for jihadis on how attacks could be carried out at the potential targets using large trucks on the lines of last year terror strikes in Nice, France and Berlin last year.

On 17 July, the group was replete with tributes to slain terrorist Sajad Gilkar, who is reported to have played a key role in the lynching of DSP Mohammad Ayub Pandith in Srinagar last month. The telegram channel, which featured a photo of Gilkar with a brick wall with graffiti, described him as a mujahid who lived by the “flag of tawhid”.

Telegram in recent months has come up as the preferred mode of communication by the ISIS terrorists and sympathisers after crackdown on their Twitter and Facebook presence. Recently Indonesia had blocked the web version of the messenger, after with Telegram promised to delete the terror groups formed on its platform. It appears that the Indian security agencies too would need to keep an eye over activities on the messaging app.

Amarnath Amarasingam, a senior research fellow at the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue who tracks the online activities of the ISIS was quoted as saying, “The interest in Kashmir is very old amongst jihadists, just like their interest in Palestine is old.”

Amarasingam said that such groups are “usually a mix” of ISIS cadre based out of Syria and disparate local sympathisers. “Some groups definitely have people who are in direct communication with ISIS operatives in Syria and they often transfer money, share logistics and tactics, and also communicate attack claims for ISIS to release,” he said.

It could be noted that Ansarul Khilafah is not an entirely new name. In October last year, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) had busted a group called Ansarul Khilafah in Kannur district of Kerala. According to reports, the group was using telegram as a means of communication for coordinate and plot ISIS-style attacks.

Opindia.com in a recent article had described how the ISIS is drawing new territories across the world and is reportedly preparing a roadmap for Islamic State 2.0, which would have a mix of a local insurgency and digitally-connected global jihadis.

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