Egged on by his friends and a mysterious ‘girlfriend’ from Syria, 23-year-old Areeb Majeed from Kalyan left his family and a bright career behind to join ISIS as a suicide bomber; in a long confession to the NIA, he reveals how his faith in Islam was manipulated to get him to join and how he became disillusioned with ISIS and began missing his family after two failed suicide bombing attempts, leading to his return
What compels ordinary people to give up their families and bright careers for a life fraught with uncertainty and risk at best, and an ignominious ‘martyrdom’ at worst?
With scores of smart young people from the developed world as well as countries like India leaving everything behind to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), this is the question that has been dogging governments and intelligence agencies across the world.
A file photo shows Areeb Majeed being taken to court from Arthur Road jail. He has told the NIA that he was trained to handle sophisticated weapons like AK-47s, the PKC machine gun, shotguns, hand grenades and missiles
While agencies have been attributing ISIS’ success in recruitment largely to religious indoctrination and a well-oiled propaganda machinery, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has, through the interrogation of 23-year-old militant Areeb Majeed, managed to get a detailed insight into a youth’s journey from a sleepy town like Kalyan to the heart of the terrorist organisation in Syria.
In a long confession running into more than 200 pages Majeed, who left for Syria through Iraq in July last year and came back in November, tells the story of how his immense faith in Islam was manipulated and how his misconception about his religion made him leave his family and take part in ISIS’ war as a suicide bomber.
He also narrates how he was left for dead by his comrades in ISIS and how he began missing his family, leading to his return to India despite the spectre of a jail term looming large over him.
The interrogation has also revealed how ISIS may have been setting up Facebook profiles of women to act as honey traps for potential recruits. Majeed who was a bright student and scored 77 per cent in his engineering diploma fell for one such honey trap in the form of one “Tahirah Bhatt from Syria”.
He ended up falling in love with her and even marrying her over Facebook without once seeing her face; and it took months, and a series of missteps from Bhatt, for him to see through the deception.
Failed suicide bombings
Majeed goes on to narrate how he was trained to handle sophisticated weapons like AK-47s, PKC machine gun, shotguns, grenades and missiles. He also learnt to make landmines. While participating in the war against the Shia Army in Iraq, he made two failed attempts to attack the army battalions with a car loaded with two to three tonnes of explosives.
In the first attempt, his car was blown up by the army a day before he could take off for the mission and in the second, his car was spotted from afar, and he sustained a bullet injury, leading to him being asked to abort the mission.
While recovering from his injury, Areeb began missing his family. A call from his sister, whose marriage he couldn’t attend, and the crying of his father weakened his resolve. He says he also saw women being sexually abused by ISIS fighters, leading to him being disillusioned with the group.
Realising that he had achieved his aim of participating in jihad, he changed his mind and decided to fly back to India. Majeed’s statement will soon be part of the chargesheet that will be filed in the NIA court.