The curious case of Bhatkal man 'martyred in Afghanistan'
The death of Indian Mujahideen-linked Anwar Beli, a former taxi driver in Dubai hailing from Bhatkal, in an encounter in Afghanistan is a pointer that more Indians are joining outfits like Al Qaeda, ISIS and Taliban, reports Vicky Nanjappa.
A year back, Intelligence Bureau officials had said that there has been a major influx of Muslim youth from India into Afghanistan and this was seconded by Yasin Bhatkal of the Indian Mujahideen during his interrogation.
Even as the National Investigating Agency tries to find out more about IM cadres joining the war in Afghanistan, the social media is abuzz with the death of a man by the name of Anwar Beli alias Anwar Bhatkal. Anwar Beli, a resident of Bhatkal in coastal Karnataka -- where Yasin, Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal hail from -- was reportedly killed in an encounter in Afghanistan. This was posted by a group called the Ansar ul-Tawhid ul-Hind on both its Twitter and Facebook accounts terming him a martyr.
The message released by the media wing of the Ansar ul-Tawhid ul-Hind says that “Anwar Bhatkal has attained martyrdom on the 20th day of Ramzan and may Allah accept his martyrdom”.
According to the Intelligence Bureau and also the local police, Anwar had been in Dubai since 2008. He was distantly related to Riyaz Bhatkal, one of the co-founders of the Indian Mujahideen.
The police suspect that Anwar, who was working as a cab driver in Dubai, may have been involved with the IM at the behest of Riyaz Bhatkal. The 38-year-old Anwar Bhatkal was in touch with his parents in Bhatkal until a year back and after that he mysteriously disappeared off the radar and has not been in touch with anyone in his family ever since.
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Image: A poster purportedly showing a photograph of 'martyred' Anwar Bhatkal being circulated on social media.
'Anwar was IM's behind-the-scene operative'
Yasin Bhatkal, during his interrogation by the NIA, did make a mention about Anwar and stated that he was one of the logistics persons for the IM. He also mentioned that several IM cadres had expressed their willingness to join the Afghanistan battle and fight alongside the Al Qaeda and the Taliban. He, however, did not mention Anwar to be one of those persons.
Anwar, according to the NIA sources, is part of their missing list.
“We found his name cropping up several times during our questioning of Yasin Bhatkal. He however did not mention to us that Anwar had joined the war in Afghanistan. He did indirectly state that they had plans of using a Dubai operative to launch a suicide attack in India. We suspect that the person he was referring to was Anwar. We have even registered a case against Anwar under number RC 6/2012,” an NIA officer said.
The NIA says the information that they have gathered on Anwar would suggest that he was a ‘behind-the-scenes’ operative. He had helped Riyaz Bhatkal and Iqbal Bhatkal flee to Pakistan and also was responsible for supplying laptops to the Indian Mujahideen which were used by the tech cell of the outfit.
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Image: A poster purportedly showing a photograph of 'martyred' Anwar Bhatkal being circulated on social media
Groups like Ansar ul-Tawhid luring Indian youths to take up terror
The IM has made no bones about its desire to fight in Afghanistan. The issue cropped up when most of the members felt disgruntled with the Inter Services Intelligence, the Pakistani spy agency, which they thought was using them to further their own gains rather than espouse a particular cause.
Yasin was one of the first to suggest to his cadres that the fight needs to be taken to Afghanistan. Anwar Bhatkal, along with Bada Sajid and Dr Shahnawaz, are said to be the first three to have gone to Afghanistan and joined the battle.
The entire process of joining the battle in Afghanistan is handled by a group known as the Ansar ul-Tawhid. This is a group specific to India and run social media sites and also conduct online recruitment.
Their job is to post messages of groups such as the Taliban, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and the Al Qaeda. The intent is to ensure that more Indians join the cause, be it in any part of the world.
This is the same group which is suspected to circulate ISIS messages online which may have lured the 18 Indian youth who have joined the fight in Iraq and Syria.
Sources in IB say that this group has its base in Northern Waziristan in Pakistan and the entire control of the websites and messages are done from there. They have released messages calling on youth to join the cause for jihad in various languages, including Malayalam, Urdu, Tamil and Hindi.
This is the same group that has been making calls for a Ghzwa-e-Hind and also the Global Islamic Council and they are trying to recruit more Indians into their fold.
There are lakhs of youth who subscribe to these sites. The IB believes that nearly 250 Muslim youth from across the country are today ready to leave for Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and fight the battle over there.
There is a great sense of urgency among these youth today and most of them who have been waging a war against India with the help of Pakistan’s ISI are slowly moving away.
There is a great deal of aggression which is found against the ISI and groups such as the Tehrik-e-Taliban and the Indian Mujahideen have said that it is time to fight for the cause. While the TT has indicated support to the ISIS, the IM is leaning towards the Taliban and the Al Qaeda.
Both have a similar message that a true Islamic state can be achieved if they battle directly instead of being controlled by intelligence agencies which have their own agenda to further.
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Image: ISIS fighters celebrate on vehicles taken from Iraqi security forces in Mosul
'I wish and pray that this news is false'
The photographs of Anwar Bhatkal being circulated on the web have once again shaken up the town of Bhatkal which has always been in the news for such things.
His parents confirm that the photograph is indeed of their son. “However, we have no information about his death,” says Mohmmad Beli, the father. “I wish and pray that this news is false and we firmly believe that this photograph of him in that attire and with a gun is fake. We are sure that he is in Dubai and is still working there. However, we are worried since he has not been in touch since the past one year,” says the worried father.
“I suspect that he is still angry with us since we did not approve of his marriage. I think he should put that behind him and call us now. He was a good boy and worked hard for a living. He used to drive an auto rickshaw for his living before he left for Dubai,” the father says.
“The NIA too had come here a couple of months back asking about him. We did not know what to tell them as we believe that he could not have been involved in any illegal activity,” he adds.
Image: Lashkar-e-Tayiba operatives at an undisclosed location