Areeb Majeed entered Iraq as a tourist, but left as a terrorist

Pretending to be tourists headed to a Prophet’s shrine in Mosul, Areeb Majeed and his friends flew in to Iraq; his handlers then guided him to their terrorist training camps

Areeb and his friends had never met Tahirah or Abu Fatima in person. All their conversations were conducted through Facebook chats. Using their contacts, Tahirah and Fatima helped the Indian boys reach Baghdad on May 25. Here’s what he told the NIA:

A week in Baghdad
On reaching Baghdad, the first thing we did was to buy local SIM cards. Tahirah had given us strict instructions to use only local SIM cards for coordinating with the handlers. Tahirah had given us the reference of Abu Fatima and Rehman Daulati, who would help us enter Syria from Baghdad.

We kept calling Daulati and Fatima for almost a week but got no answers on our next move. While contacting Tahirah and Daulati, we feared that someone may overhear our conversation and we would land in trouble, so we shifted out of the dormitory to a hotel.

The tour operator helped us with the details of the other hotel and we were accommodated in Hotel Burj-As-Salaam located at Sadoon Street. The hotel charged us US$100 per day. Abu Fatima wired US$1,000 to us via Western Union through a Kuwaiti national.

We paid US$500 to the tour operator and asked him to extend our stay. We then informed Daulati about the development. Fatima asked us to leave Baghdad and head to Mosul as he was unable to help us in Baghdad.

'We are just tourists'
Fatima had asked us to change our appearance before heading to Mosul. So, we shaved our beards and got haircuts. After breakfast, we left for the market to buy food. The owner of the general store from where we used to buy our food offered his friend’s taxi for US$300.

We told the taxi driver that we want to go to Mosul for ziyarat (worship) to visit the shrine of Prophet Younus (A.S.). Mosul is a five-hour drive from Baghdad. We started at 2 pm and crossed more than 30 checkpoints of Iraqi Army. At the checkpoints, Faiz did all the talking with the Army officials and they were convinced that we were just tourists.

During our journey, we were in constant touch with Abu Fatima through messages. We reached Mosul at around 7 pm. The taxi driver dropped us outside Mosul city as taxis from Baghdad are not allowed in the city limits. We bid him farewell and checked into a hotel.

New names
Four of us were given kunya (new names). I was named Abu Ali Al Hindi and Fahad, Saheem and Amaan were named Abu Bakr Al Hindi, Abu Uthman Al Hindi and Abu Umar Al Hindi respectively. We stayed in the village for almost 10 to 12 days. There was nothing much to do here since we were muhajirs (migrants).

Interrogated by army
During our stay in Mosul, Fatima had asked us to wait at the Sabunji masjid after offering prayers. While we were waiting outside the masjid, the army men caught us. They asked us the purpose of our visit. We explained that we were Indians and had come to Mosul to visit Prophet Younus’ shrine.

Illustrations/Amit Bandre
Illustrations/Amit Bandre

Satisfied after all the verifications, they allowed us to leave after 2 hours of interrogation. The moment we came out, Abu Fatima called me and asked us to wait there. A white coloured Hyundai car with two persons arrived and the driver of the car asked us to get in.

The driver identified himself as Ali. He was carrying a Glock pistol, while the other person was carrying AK-47 rifles. It was a 15-minute drive from the masjid to a house in Mosul city. Ali stayed with his wife and three small children in a posh locality.

His house was a duplex with 8-9 rooms. He checked our baggage. Ali removed the SIM cards from our mobile phones and took the cards and all the cellphones except mine. Ali then dropped us on the outskirts of Mosul.

Village of militants
We were handed over to another person, who took us to a place called Jazira, a small village with around 10 to 12 houses built with mud with a population of around 25 to 30 men, who were fighters of ISIS. I saw several sophisticated weapons like AK-47s, PKC machine guns, shotguns, M-16s, M-4s, a tank and anti-aircraft weapons.

All the fighters, in the age group of 22- 25 years, living in the village were from Iraq, except a media representative of ISIS, who was from the UK and he used to record the events of the day and post them on Facebook pages of ISIS.

Registration centre for ISIS terrorists
Three days later, the war hit Jazira and ISIS captured the entire village. All four of us were taken to another ISIS base in Hudood Centre, which was a 7-hour journey. All the members who were from outside Syria were registered there.

It was a two-storey building which was earlier a school that was captured by the ISIS. There were more than 200 recruits here. From Hudood Centre we were moved to Sharaee Moazkar centre for which we traveled in a bus along with 15 to 20 other people. There were 300 ISIS workers there.

A day in the life of a terrorist

5.30 am to noon
Sleeping hours

12.30 pm to 1.00 pm
Offer Zuhr prayer

1.30 pm to 4.30 pm
Attend lectures by various scholars

5.00 pm to 6.00 pm
Offer Asar prayer

6.30 pm till 7.00 pm
Break the fast

7.30 pm till 9 pm
Areeb and the others were given training in handling weapons like AK-47, PKC machine gun, rocket-propelled grenade

9 pm to 10 pm
Break of one hour

10 pm till 12 pm
They were given physical training

12.30 am to 3.30 am
They learnt weapon positioning

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