As it looked for means to fund terror activities, the Janood-ul-Khalifa-Hind, the alleged Indian wing of the Islamic State, considered extorting money from Bollywood stars. A suggestion to take Naxal help to procure arms was reportedly turned down.
According to sources, two alleged top commanders of the module busted by security agencies earlier this year, Rizwan Nawazuddin alias Khalid and Muddabir Sheikh, have revealed this in interrogation.
Officials said Rizwan, 19, who has been named by them as operational head of the Indian wing of IS, had told them that the plan to target Bollywood stars was discussed in a September 2015 meeting of members of the Lucknow module.
“But just before the module could chalk out the entire plan, security agencies which had been monitoring their online activities arrested them in a nationwide clampdown,” a source said. The NIA had arrested 23 alleged IS sympathisers in a joint operation with six state counter-terrorism agencies earlier this year.
Rizwan and his associates allegedly also planned to carry out lone wolf attacks against top Sangh Parivar leaders such as RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and the VHP’s Ashok Singhal and Pravin Tagodia, hoping this would bring them in international spotlight.
Rizwan, two of whose uncles are in the Army, talked about toying with the idea of attacking an Army base in Meerut too, say investigators. While his father is a revenue official in UP, another uncle is a district magistrate.
The 19-year-old allegedly confessed that he was drawn to extremist ideology after he started surfing the Internet to kill time.
According to his “confession”, his module’s current handler, Shafi Armar alias Yusuf, didn’t want to initially pledge allegiance of his Ansar-ul-Tawhid to the IS. His brother Sultan had allegedly left the Indian Mujahideen owing to differences over money with Bhatkal brothers Rizwan and Iqbal, and initially approached the al-Qaeda and Taliban for help, before taking funds from the IS. “Only the IS was receptive to the offer made by the Armar brothers. They made Armars in charge of the Indian operations and they were asked to scout for recruits back home who could help carry out ‘lone wolf attacks’ and spread the IS agenda in the subcontinent,” Rizwan has allegedly told interrogators. –
Officials claim the Indian module first received funds in October last year, with Yusuf allegedly routing Rs 6 lakh through hawala channels in Mumbai to be received by Muddabir Sheikh. A techie who had been jobless since September last year, Muddabir had reportedly got in touch with Yusuf through encrypted chatting apps Trillian and Sureshot. Yusuf allegedly made him the Amir, or the chief of the Indian module, in October last year.
The Lucknow meeting where targeting actors was discussed also saw a discussion on training locations, Rizwan allegedly revealed. Among the places considered were the jungles of Panvel on Mumbai outskirts, and the forests of Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.