Bengaluru: NIA arrests man for sending youths to Syria to join IS

Mohammed Tauqir Mahmood is a dentist who had earlier lived in Saudi Arabia for many years. He was arrested after being deported from Saudi Arabia, sources said.

A 33-year-old man, Mohammed Tauqir Mahmood, was arrested from Bengaluru Saturday by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for alleged involvement in sending youths to Syria to join the Islamic State in the 2013-14 period.

Mahmood is a dentist who had earlier lived in Saudi Arabia for many years. He was arrested after being deported from Saudi Arabia, sources said.

Last year, in October, the NIA had accused the dentist, computer applications specialist Zuhaib Hameed alias Shakeel Manna and engineer Mohammed Shihab, who were living abroad, of building an “affiliation with the banned terrorist organization ISIS/ISIL/Daesh”. The affiliation is alleged to have facilitated the travel of as many as eight youths to Syria from 2013-14.

Last year, Tauqir and Hameed, former residents of Bengaluru, were believed to be living in Saudi Arabia while Shihab was reportedly in North America.

The trio are alleged to have built contacts with the Islamic State in Syria through an associate from Saudi Arabia — where Tauqir and Shihab studied during their school years.

Their schoolmate is alleged to have had a close association with ISIS in Syria and facilitated the travel of as many six youths from Bengaluru to Syria. Tauqir is alleged to have also travelled to Syria too with a friend to build links with ISIS.

The group from Bengaluru was “involved in radicalising gullible Muslim youths and sending them to Syria with the help of accused persons through illegal border cross. They were raising and receiving funds used to bear the expenses of target youths,” the NIA said in court filing last year.

The existence of a group of youths from Bengaluru who had travelled to join the IS in Syria in the 2013-14 period came to light after the August 17, 2020 arrest of Abdur Rahman, 28, an ophthalmologist from Bengaluru, on charges of conspiring with a Kashmiri man, arrested in Delhi in March 2020 for association with an Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP) unit in India.

As part of its investigations into the case, the NIA on October 7, 2020 arrested Ahamed Abdul Cader, 40, a business analyst working in Chennai and Irfan Nasir, 33, a rice merchant in Bengaluru for allegedly funding “the Bengaluru-based ISIS module”.

“Accused Ahamed Abdul Cader, Irfan Nasir and their associates played a very significant role in radicalisation of the members of the group and arranged funds through donations and own sources for visit of accused Abdur Rahman and other Muslim youth of Bengaluru to Syria to join ISIS. Two of such youth got killed in Syria,” the NIA said after the October 7, 2020 arrests.

Two youths from Bengaluru — Faiz Masood — who travelled from Bengaluru and Abdul Subhan, who was working in Yemen, are reported to be among the Indian youths who died in Syria after getting enamoured by the idea of the Islamic State and travelling to be a part of the short-lived Caliphate.

The NIA’s investigation revealed that some of the youths from Bengaluru had travelled to Syria in the 2013-14 period using IS connections allegedly developed by Tauqir and Zuhaib Hameed — who both later moved to Saudi Arabia.

According to NIA, Irfan Nasir, who was arrested last October, and others, created a “Quran Circle” in Bengaluru in the 2013-14 period where youths were shown videos of atrocities committed on Muslims in Syria in order to motivate them to go to Syria to join ISIS. Around six-seven of the group visited Syria in a short span of time in the period, the NIA has said.

The arrest of ophthalmologist Dr Rahman in Bengaluru on August 17, 2020 had revealed that he was a part of a larger group of youths from Bengaluru who were attracted to the Islamic State during their student years in 2013-14 when the Islamic State had first appeared on the horizon. The interrogation of Dr Rahman revealed that he had travelled to Syria along with a fellow medical student in the 2013-2014 period — with the assistance of a group of friends in Bengaluru.

An aeronautical engineer from Bengaluru, who was a part of the group, also travelled to Syria prior to the two medical students. He suffered an injury to his arm and returned to India in 2013.

“Further investigation has revealed that accused Muhammad Tauqir Mahmood in association with co-accused persons had raised funds, radicalized and recruited gullible Muslim youth of a Quran Circle group and illegally sent them to Syria to join ISIS. Earlier in 2013, Muhammad Tauqir Mahmood along with his associate had also visited Syria illegally to liaise with Daesh leadership and had offered support from Indian Muslims,” the NIA said last week after the arrest of Tauqir.


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