Mumbai: Four youths from Kalyan who disappeared in Iraq during a pilgrimage in May and were suspected to have joined ISIS jehadists were “radicalised” by a group with no terrorist links, Maharashtra ATS said on Wednesday.
“The organisation and the people who apparently radicalised these boys are based in India. However, the letter written by one of the boys (to his father) does not mention the name of the organisation or the people. But we are still working on the finer details and it is not a terrorist organisation,” A top ATS officer said.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said the four were a part of a group of 40 people that had travelled to Iraq on a pilgrimage tour. On May 25, the group had taken an Etihad flight to Baghdad and on May 31 the four took a taxi from their hotel to Mosul city from where they disappeared.
A week after their disappearance, Mosul was attacked by Sunni militants of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria which is engaged in a deadly conflict with the government in the region, he said.
Elaborating on their radicalisation, the officer said, one of them in a letter to his father spoke about going “voluntarily for the work of Allah” but did not mention ISIS, which has declared establishment of a Caliphate under Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
While speaking about “getting spiritual inclinations” in the past few weeks, the man admonished his sisters for wearing jeans and watching TV and his father for not sporting beard and being as particular about the tenets of Islam as he should.
The families of the four men in their 20s – Arif Majeed, Sahim Tankhi, Fahad Sheikh and Aman Tandel – from Kalyan in neighbouring Thane district, have denied their involvement in terrorist activities. Missing persons’ complaints have been registered about them at police stations in Thane.
About their trip to Iraq, the officer said, the tour operator was paid Rs 59,786 in cash for each ticket and a local tour operator had accompanied the group of 40.
“Our investigation is directed towards getting the source of the money paid by the four to the tour operator. We are trying to know from where did such a huge amount come.
We have an idea and we are proceeding in that direction,” he said.
The officer said internet was also a source of indoctrination in this case.
“Chatrooms are rooms for indoctrination. Internet is a source for a lot of material on fundamentalism… and in this case too internet has been used,” he said.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil has said the state government was in touch with the Centre in the matter and shared all available information.
“We are in touch with the Central government over the disappearance of four Muslim youth. The state government has shared information available so far with Central agencies,” he said.