Scramble to stem spread of Islamic State: ATS blocks 80 ISIS websites

Day after mid- day reported about a new do- it- yourself terror book, ATS says 80 websites spreading ISIS propaganda were blocked this year; police are asking community leaders to warn youngsters about the perils of radicalisation

The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad blocked 80 websites that were streaming Islamic State propaganda, figures obtained by mid-day show. This is almost thrice the number of such sites blocked last year (30), ATS officials told this paper.

Also read: Mass downloads of ISIS D-I-Y terror e-book has cops in a fix

Alarmed by the aggressive attempts of the Salafi terror group to radicalise Indian youth, the ATS has started seeking help from Muslim scholars and community leaders to convince youngsters not to fall for extremist propaganda.

The book, ‘Muslim Gangs e-book 1’,  is easily available at dozens of websites
The book, 'Muslim Gangs e-book 1', is easily available at dozens of websites

The developments follow mid-day’s front page report on Friday about a new book that urges youngsters to graduate from being lone wolves to forming Muslim gangs.

The book tells readers how to lose the fear of police and state authority, make bombs, pilfer money, recruit children and teenagers, and eventually create no-go zones. Though primarily meant for Western youth, the number of downloads in India sent cops in a tizzy. ATS sources on Friday told mid-day that the site will be blocked in a day or two.

Also read: Allah sent ATS to save our daughter, says de-radicalised Pune girl's family

Inspector general of police (IG), ATS, Niket Kaushik said, "The websites containing the e-book will soon be blocked. We are monitoring such websites."

Officials, however, refused to divulge the number of downloads or the parts of the country from which the books have been downloaded. The development comes days after a government employee from Jaipur was arrested for allegedly instigating Muslim youngsters to join the IS on Internet forums and groups.

Meeting clerics
Sources said the last four days have seen back-to-back meetings between ATS officers and Muslim clerics and scholars in five cities across the state — Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Nashik and Aurangabad. The police are asking these community leaders to alert youngsters about the perils of radicalisation.

"The community has welcomed our move and is helping us," said an ATS officer involved in the exercise. "They will hold public meetings with youngsters and ask them not to download and spread IS propaganda. Those who have downloaded the material will be told to delete it and they will be told how the group is only fooling them."

"This year we have blocked over 80 websites containing terrorist propaganda as opposed to 30 last year," said a senior ATS official. "We now have a special cyber cell to keep a tab on such activities. This year’s figures are alarming, especially the speed at which it is getting downloaded here (in India). The content is very appealing and attractive to youngsters. Once this desire to become powerful is fuelled, ISIS recruiters start chatting to select youngsters on WhatsA'pp, Facebook, Twitter and email, of which WhatsApp is the most difficult for us to trace."

The book, ‘Muslim Gangs e-book 1’, is easily available at dozens of websites. Officials said it will take a day or two to block access to all these websites, which will take the number of sites blocked this year to 100. "We came to know about the book 15 days ago," said the ATS officer. "Our team was working on the same and figured that it will be dangerous for the youngsters. We are scrutinising who all downloaded the book."

Lured by ISIS
On Thursday, the ATS claimed that it has tracked and de-radicalised a 17-year-old Pune girl, who was swayed by ISIS and was planning to travel to Syria.

Also read: ATS questions Pune girl 'radicalised' by ISIS sympathisers

In May 2014, four youngsters from Kalyan traveled to Syria to join the ISIS. While one, Areeb Majeed, returned, there is no news about the whereabouts of the other three. Majeed is currently in NIA custody for waging war against country.

4 months
Time it took ISIS to radicalise Pune teen over Internet

30
Number of ISIS-linked sites blocked last year

Why a normal person gets radicalised...

According to Dr Kersi Chavda, consultant psychiatrist at Hinduja Hospital, anything in excess is frightening; anything that is extreme is not good. “When we have issues related to excessive insistence on spirituality or religion, this can tend towards an obsessive tendency and is to be avoided. It sometimes seems quite strange that a youngster who grows up in a fairly liberal atmosphere, and who is convent-educated, should land up being so radicalised. However, probably there was something that seemed to be missing in the person’s life and getting into a religious movement answered that. So, the person gets more and more obsessed with whatever allows the feeling of completeness.”

The doctor further added, “Given that the person was continuously in touch with the handler, and that a feeling of co-dependence occurs herein, the person feels that he cannot do anything to antagonise the handler. There will be a movement towards following the handler’s desires or diktat. And this then allows a so called sensible and fun loving teenager to become a radicalised suicide bomber.''

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