A probe into the browsing history of the group shows that they looked up a lot of ISIS websites and were even a part of WhatsApp and Facebook groups that discussed jihad and the terror outfit
Police investigations after the detention of Wajid Sheikh in Pune have thrown new light on his Malwani group’s activities prior to their disappearance. While cops found several videos, pictures and literature pertaining to the ISIS ideology in Wajid’s phone, they also got to know that Ayaz Sultan was the one radicalising them.
Investigations into the Internet history of all three men have revealed that the group was searching extensively on the ISIS. The group had planned their disappearance and had deliberately left their mobile phones at home to avoid being traced.
Speaking to mid-day, a senior ATS officer said, “We are taking help of the cyber team. They have revealed that the four men searched for a lot of jihadi websites (ISIS and other organisations) on the Internet. They were even part of WhatsApp and Facebook groups. The mobile phone we recovered has a lot of ISIS videos, pictures and literature. Wajid’s wife also told us that they used to fight lot as Wajid had turned deeply religious and radical; he wanted to do something for Islam.”
mid-day had carried a report on Monday on the Malwani men who had left their homes, possibly to join the ISIS, with the help of their Indian allies or agents. Of the four, Ayaz Sultan (23) had left home saying he had to go to Pune for a job offer he had received from a Kuwait-based company.
The other three left on December 15. Mohsin Sheikh (25) said he was going to a friend’s wedding, while Wajid Sheikh (25), said that he had to get his name corrected on his Aadhar card. Noor Mohammad Shaikh (32) had left home after saying that he was going out for tea with a friend.
Sources said that Ayaz was the one who radicalised the other three. After he left from home, the other three planned to leave as well. However, they left because Ayaz’s family kept pestering them about his whereabouts.
An ATS officer said, “When Wajid left he took some of his wife’s jewellery and sold it. He received Rs 18, 000 after selling it. The other men also took money from home. All the missing men were moving towards radical thinking.” The ATS is not trusting Wajid’s statements at the moment, because he continuously keeps changing them.
The Pune ATS nabbed Wajid yesterday afternoon in Wakad, Pune, while he was travelling in a bus. Special Inspector General (IG) ATS Niket Kaushik said, “We had specific information regarding Wajid travelling on that bus in Pune, after which he was nabbed. We are not relying on his statements. The Mumbai ATS unit will interrogate him.”
‘Latur reports baseless’
Kaushik added, “Reports that Wajid went to Latur and other places for a job hunt are baseless. All the men had made plans and left their homes. They had left mobile phones home so that they could not be traced.”
Kaushik said, “We are investigating the case and taking help to locate the other missing men. We have not given a clean chit to Wajid, investigations are on, and he will be called for questioning as and when required.”
In Pune, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ATS) Bhanupratap Barge said, “All of them knew each other since they stayed in the same area and visited the same mosque. The trio hatched a plan to leave together. Ayaz used to brainwash the other three by showing them ISIS clippings.”
He added, “From the basis of Sheikh’s statement, it seems that Ayaz was radicalising and brain washing the others. We are worried about other youths. Sheikh had left from home with R18, 000 with the others on December 15. On Tuesday night, we recovered only Rs 10,100 from his pocket.”
No clean chit
Wajid was brought to Mumbai on Tuesday night, after which ATS reunited him with his family. He was sent home in the wee hours of yesterday, after he completed certain official procedures. The ATS picked him up for questioning later in the morning.
Wajid told investigators that he and the others had left home because Ayaz’s family members were harassing them by asking them about his whereabouts.
All three gave different versions on why they were leaving to their family members. An ATS officer said, “The reasons and statements are not reliable at all. All three had planned to leave home in advance.”
According to ATS sources, after leaving from Mumbai, Wajid, Mohsin and Noor went to Pune and travelled to Hyderabad, Belgaum and Chennai. The trio were staying at a lodge, and came to know through media reports that the police was looking for them. They decided to flee from Chennai.
Addressing the press, ACP Barge said, “Mohsin told the others that he was going to book train tickets and left the lodge. He did not return after several hours. Later, Wajid and Noor decided to leave by bus. When they reached the bus stand, Noor told Wajid that he was going to look for Mohsin, and never returned.” Wajid boarded the bus to Bangalore alone. He later changed to a connecting bus to Mumbai from Bangalore.
He added, “In the meantime, we came to know from our informers, that Sheikh was on his way to Mumbai on a private luxury bus from Bangalore. So, our sleuths, lead by inspector Sunil Tambe and S Gokule had laid a trap in the area. They intercepted the bus at Katraj road in Pune, where the bus had a halt.” Wajid was picked up from the bus.
Wajid’s divine intervention
“During interrogation, it was revealed that Wajid was confused about the spiritual thought portrayed by the ISIS and decided to meet a cleric to clarify his doubts,” Barge said.
Wajid met two clerics. One of them explained the real meaning of jihad to him, and told him that the ISIS was not preaching the truth. Then, Wajid met another cleric, who fed him a radical, extremist point of view.
“We are happy that the cleric he spoke to was a good one. Wajid was enlightened by the thoughts of the cleric who asked him to follow the good path. But still, we are appealing to his other friends through the media to come and meet us. We will help you. There is no problem (in approaching us) and no one is penalising or accusing you.”