A day after three families from Malwani say their sons have left to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), police find more men from the same area missing since the same day
A day after mid-day broke the news about how three men from Malwani may have left to join the Islamic State, the Anti-Terrorism Squad said some more of their friends are also missing, and suspects they too have gone to join the jihadist outfit in Syria.
Top sources told mid-day at least two youngsters who are friends of the three missing men haven’t returned home since December 15. The ATS added it has stopped a third group of youngsters who were also about to leave their homes.
Three Malwani-based youth are missing since October 30 and their families believe they left home to join the ISIS. Ayaz Sultan (23) left home on October 30, saying he had to go to Pune in connection with a job offer he had from a Kuwait based company. Mohsin Sheikh (26) left home on December 15, saying he was going for a friend’s wedding, and Wajid Sheikh (25) also left home on December 15, saying he had to get his name in his Aadhar card corrected.
“The same day Mohsin and Wajid left home, more men from the group also went missing,” said an ATS officer, refusing to divulge any detail about them. “They are missing since the same afternoon and are yet to be contacted. The group had more friends who were planning to leave home but were saved by the ATS team after the matter came up. They are currently being questioned in the matter. All of them were in constant contact on WhatsApp and Facebook. They used to regularly meet at a particular location in the area.”
Maharashtra ATS Chief Vivek Phansalkar told mid-day: “We are taking the matter very seriously and have sought the help of other agencies in the investigation. We are also probing what triggered these men to leave home. What we know is that none of the reasons these men gave their family while leaving is correct.”
Each city police station has a dedicated cell of personnel to monitor terror-related activities in their jurisdiction. But sources said there is a serious lack of coordination between these Anti-Terror Cells and the state ATS.
The ATS has sent a 37-point note to the city police to improve co-ordination. An important point is that the local cells should prepare a list of all Muslim men between the ages of 18 and 30 missing from their areas and submit it to the ATS.
A high-level inquiry has also been initiated into all missing person complaints in Malwani from January 2015. “We have gathered records from the Malwani police station and are scrutinizing them. Over 250 missing complaints were registered in Malwani police station this year, of which we are taking details of all youngsters who are missing.”
The ATS appealed to parents and relatives to keep track of the activities of their children. “Family members and relatives are closer to youngsters than us. Parents, mainly, should keep a close watch on and take care of youths. If they find any changes in their behaviour, they should come straight to us. We will counsel them with the help of clerics and scholars. We have done this with several youngsters in the past and our work has been appreciated by the community,” said Phansalkar.
Missing man was devout
Family members of Mohsin Sheikh told mid-day he was a devout Muslim and the sole breadwinner. Married with two children aged 6 and 3, he has two younger brothers and four elder sisters, of whom three are married. He provided for the entire family, they said.
His father Ibrahim said: “When we wanted to buy a TV, he stopped us, saying it was against Islam. Even today, we do not have a TV at home. If his children missed namaaz, he would cut one meal for them. He had instructed us to follow the same in his absence. He was a very caring and loving person. He had no social life beyond those friends.”
Ibrahim said he knew all the three other missing men from the group. “They were always together and even prayed together at the local mosque,” he said. “But I never knew what was going on between them. I pray to Allah our children don’t fall in bad company, and that they return home at the earliest.”
250 Missing complaints were registered in Malwani police station this year. ATS has asked local cells to submit a list of all Muslim men between the ages of 18 and 30 missing from their areas