IS twitter account operator arrested

Bengaluru: The alleged handler of the most influential pro-Islamic State (IS) Twitter account has been arrested, a senior police official said here today.

"He is with us," the official told PTI, confirming the arrest of the pro-jihad tweeter "@ShamiWitness" who had been anonymously operating the account as "Mehdi". The official declined to provide details.

Bengaluru Police were on the hunt for "Mehdi" who was reported to be working as an executive based out of Bengaluru. Britain's Channel 4 News had aired the report regarding the country's IT capital's link with the Twitter account that is followed by foreign jihadis.

The British news broadcaster did not reveal his full name as he said his life would be in danger. A total of 39 Indian workers are still under the captivity of the deadly IS. The account was shut down after the report surfaced. In its report, 'Channel 4' yesterday said that the man operating the account is an executive in the city working for an Indian conglomerate and had been able to remain anonymous "until now" and avoiding questions about his role in the Islamic State's propaganda war.

Channel 4 News had said its investigation had however revealed that the man operating the account is called Mehdi and he is an executive in Bangalore working for an Indian conglomerate. "His tweets, written under the name Shami Witness, were seen two million times each month, making him perhaps the most influential Islamic State Twitter account, with over 17,700 followers," it said.

Bangalore Police Commissioner M N Reddi had said they have asked the crime branch to look into the veracity of the report and were in contact with central agencies like NIA and IB.

After the report emerged, security agencies were on the trail of a few suspects. In a brief interview to Channel 4 "Mehdi" had said, "I haven't done anything wrong. I haven't harmed anybody. I haven't broken any law...I haven't raised any war or any violence against the public of India. I haven't waged war against any allies of India."

"I want to state clearly that I won't resist arrest when the time comes. I don't have any sort of weapons with me," he had said in the two minute 12 second interview which ends abruptly. The report had quoted the Twitter account operator as saying that he had not joined IS jihadist ranks in Iraq and Syria because his family was financially dependent on him.

The Shami Witness tweets contained jihadist propaganda as well as information for would-be recruits and messages praising fighters who have been killed as martyrs. The IS militant group has made extensive use of social media for propaganda and recruitment, as well as for disseminating gory execution videos. This is not the first time that Karnataka has been linked with global terror.

In 2007, London-based Kafeel Ahmed, a doctorate engineering student from the city, drove an explosive laden truck into Glasgow international airport and died of injuries he received in the attack. Riaz and Iqbal, brothers from the coastal town of Bhatkal in Karnataka, founded Indian Mujahidden which is blamed for about 21 terror attacks across the country with both remaining elusive.


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