One of 4 missing Mumbai youths killed in Iraq

Written by Deepak Joshi | Gautam S Mengle | ZEESHAN SHAIKH | Kalyan | Updated: Aug 28 2014, 14:17pm hrs
Arif Ejaz Majeed, one of the four young men from Kalyan who were thought to have joined Sunni insurgents of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has reportedly been killed in the fighting in Iraq.

The news of Arifs death was conveyed by Saheem Farooq Tanki, another of the four men, who called his family on Tuesday evening.

Arif, an engineering student, went missing along with Saheem and two others Fahad Tanvir Sheikh and Aman Naim Tandel in May. The four families went to the police some days after they disappeared.

The Indian Express reported the disappearances, and the fact that the four youths were believed to have joined Sunni jihadis in Iraq, in its edition of July 14.

An uncle of Saheems said Saheem had called the family over VoIP twice on Tuesday evening, crying incessantly. He said Saheem had not told them where he was.

The first call came around 6.30 pm. Saheem called his brother Farzaans cellphone, the way he always does, as Farzaan is the only one in the family who has a cellphone. Saheem was crying when he called. He told Farzaan that Arif had died, and asked us to convey the news to his (Arifs) family, the uncle, Kashif Tanki, said.

We repeatedly asked him what had happened and where Arif had died, but all Saheem could do was cry. I along with Farzaan then left for Arifs residence to inform his family, Tanki said.

Saheems second call, the uncle said, came around 11.40 pm.

This time too, he was crying, Tanki said. He asked us whether we had informed Arifs family, and we said that we had. We again tried to get some more details out of him, but failed. We asked him how he was, and all he said was that he was fine, and that he would come home soon.

Saheems family informed the Bazarpeth Police about the phonecall soon afterward, Tanki said.

Friends of Arif Majeeds family said Arifs father, Dr Ejaz Badruddin Majeed, was shattered by the news. They said the family had accepted that Arif was no more, and had offered funeral prayers for him on Wednesday.

Dr Majeed was inconsolable. The Ghaibaana Namaaz-e-Janaaza, which is a funeral prayer for occasions when the body is not available, was offered after the Zuhr (afternoon) namaaz by the family, said a resident of the housing society in which the Majeed family lives.

The Majeeds neighbours and members of the families of the other three youth who had accompanied him to Iraq were present at the funeral prayers, residents of the society said.

The Majeed family declined to speak to reporters. Members of the family are not in the right frame of mind now. We request you to respect the familys privacy at this difficult time, a member of the family who did not want to be identified said.

Members of the families of both Arif and Saheem were called by police for their statements. Saheems brother spent over two hours at Bazarpeth Police Station recording his statement.

Police said that they were crosschecking the statements made by Saheems family. We came to know about the phonecall and we have sought information from the families. At this point we cant comment on the veracity of the call, Police Inspector B R Ghadge of Bazarpeth Police Station said.

The four families live in the same Dudh Naka-Govindwadi area of Kalyan (West). The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad had picked up laptops and pen drives from the youths homes on the evening of July 14. Arifs father, Ejaz Badruddin Majeed, had met Home Minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi on July 18, and handed him a letter, reportedly seeking action against those who had radicalised his son and persuaded him to join the jihadis in the Middle East.

Before leaving home, Arif had left behind a letter saying fighting has been enjoined upon you, and telling his mother that the angel of death will ask him why he didnt migrate to Allahs land. In the letter, the son told his family, May we all meet in Paradise.

ISIS, the ruthless Sunni extremist militia which Arif, Fahad, Aman and Saheem were believed to have joined, now calls itself the Islamic State (IS). It shocked the world this month by uploading on the Internet a video of the grisly beheading of American journalist James Foley.

Police sources had told The Indian Express last month that the four men flew to Baghdad on May 23 as part of a group of 22 pilgrims intending to visit religious shrines in Iraq. Arif had called his family from Baghdad on May 24, apologising for having left without telling them.

He had claimed he had travelled in the hope of finding a job there. He had phoned again on May 25, this time to reassure his family that he was well.

Later that evening, other pilgrims on the trip told investigators, Arif, Fahad, Aman and Saheem had hired a taxi to Fallujah, a city west of Baghdad which has emerged as the epicentre of Iraqs deadly insurgency. The four Kalyan men had gone silent thereafter.

Iraqi intelligence had found Arifs cellphone connected to a tower in the Mosul area before it went dead and on Wednesday, intelligence sources in India said Arifs death had likely occurred in the same area.

The radicalisation of the youths seems to have taken place online, a Maharashtra Police official had told The Indian Express in July, with news of atrocities in the region inflaming their passions.

Last year, Pakistani al-Qaeda ideologue Asim Umar had called on Indians to join the global jihad. The ISIS has cited India as a key concern for global jihadists. In Internet chatrooms where Islamists congregate, messages have been posted calling on Indians to join up, to prepare themselves for what is being described as the coming communal apocalypse.

Internet propaganda has drawn thousands of young people from distant countries to the conflicts in Iraq and Syria. Hundreds of volunteers from Europe, the UK, US and Australia have been reported to be participating in the wars, along with some numbers of Pakistanis. Foleys murderer is said to have had a South London accent.

In his letter, Arif appeared to reject his familys values. I cried when I saw you all sinning, smoking cigarettes, taking interest, watching TV, illegal sexual intercourse, living luxurious lives, intermingling of sexes, not praying, not growing beards.These things will lead to you burning in the hell-fire, he said.

He had harsh words, in particular, for his sister, and female cousins, who all watched television, a professional way to ensure nudity, lewdness, obscenity and disbelief prevail. It is a major sin. In it is music, which is an instrument of Satan.

He was a good boy, Arifs father had said then. He was very religious, never spent time in bad company, never chased after girls, never seemed attracted to violence.

O Mother, Arif wrote. The sun is setting in the backyard of our house, behind the mountain and I have told my friend that we will meet there for our greatest journey. It is a blessed journey for me because I dont want to live in this sinful country. At the time of my death, the angel of death will ask me why I did not make hijra (migrate) to Allahs land, which is spacious.