ATS sources said the two Malwani men who have been traced have revealed how Ayaz Sultan, the youngest in their group had threatened them into joining ISIS, after which they were handled by a Chennai agent
With the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) having found another of the missing Malwani men suspected to have been recruited by terror organisation Islamic State, two important details in the case have come to light.
Ayaz Sultan (23) threatened his friends saying they would be considered infidels if they did not join ISIS
The two men nabbed so far have pointed the investigators to their Chennai handler, and have also revealed how they were bullied and threatened into joining ISIS by the youngest in the group, Ayaz Sultan (23), who was the first to be radicalised and leave home on October 30.
A day after they caught one of the Malwani four (Wajid Sheikh, 25) from Wakad in Pune, on Wednesday evening, the ATS nabbed a second man — Noor Mohammad Shaikh (32) in Miraj, near Sangli.
In the wee hours of last morning, he was brought to Mumbai and allowed to meet his family, before being taken to the ATS office for questioning.
The 'kafir' threat
Wajid and Noor told the ATS officials that they had been brainwashed by Ayaz, who would intimidate them with the threat of being called kafir (infidel).
“Ayaz would threaten his Malwani friends, saying that if they backed out and didn’t join ISIS, not only would they be declared kafir (infidel), ISIS would destroy their families, since they would become kafir by extension,” said an ATS source.
As mid-day had reported, Ayaz was the first of the Malwani four to leave home on October 30, telling his family he had to go to Pune for a job. Officials said Ayaz’s father is a Pakistani national, while his mother is Indian.
Ayaz himself was born in Pakistan, and that was where he went upon leaving home. But he continued to radicalise men in Malwani, and cops suspect he brainwashed at least 10 men.
“Even after Ayaz left the country, he was in constant touch with all the men. He had been radicalised completely through the ISIS chat rooms and online agents. He had been brainwashed so thoroughly that he began to recruit people as well. He played a key role in brainwashing his friends,” added the source.
Ayaz also kept in touch with the Indian agent who was guiding and helping the men get out of the country. ATS is now looking for this person.
“After the three men (Wajid, Noor and the still missing Mohsin) left home on December 15, they first went to Pune, where the agent provided them with new mobile phones and SIM cards. The trio had been strictly instructed by the agent to leave their mobile phones at home,” said an official, adding that they then travelled through Hyderabad and Belgaum before reaching Chennai, where the agent was in the process of making bogus passports and Aadhar cards for them.
After the news broke of the men going missing because of suspected ISIS recruitment, the agent got nervous and the plot began to unravel (see ‘Tracking the story’).
Tracking the rest
Wajid and Noor were tracked down with the help of their mobile phones. Readers might recall that a homesick Noor had called his family a day after he left home, after which the call was abruptly cut by others. The cops are now also looking for the others using the same method. “The second group of friends from Malwani, who were to leave in the next batch, were in constant touch with the trio on their new mobile numbers. With the help of these new numbers, we are tracking them,” said an ATS officer.
Noor was allowed to meet his family around 5 am yesterday and his wife was rejoiced to see him again. In an earlier interview with mid-day, she had recounted how he had called her to say he missed her and the children. “I am very happy and relieved that my husband is back. The whole family depends on him. He came home at 5 in the morning, and later, he was picked up by the ATS,” said Noor’s wife, Rahimunnisa.
Tracking the story
When mid-day broke the story on December 21 of the Malwani four being allegedly recruited by ISIS, the Chennai agent himself backed out and told the men to separate and go into hiding. Their faces had been splashed on news channels and in newspapers, compromising their chances of getting out the country unobstructed. Since then, this paper has carried sustained coverage of the case, including the revelation that more men who went missing from the area might also have been recruited by ISIS.