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Why ultras from South India are fighting in Syria

May 13, 2014 15:37 IST

Agencies like the Tauheed Jammat have been set up in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana to radicalise the youth and recruit them to carry out terror activities in other countries. Vicky Nanjappa reports  

Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Telangana have one thing in common. There is a growing clamour in parts of these states to join the fight in Syria. Since 2013 at least 5 persons and their families have gone missing from South India.

Radicals from South India are being recruited to fight battles elsewhere, but at the same time are directed to stay away from subversive activities in their home towns. Ultras from Kerala fighting alongside Pakistani militants in Kashmir and confessions of extremists expressing their willingness to fight alongside the Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan have been an eye-opener for security agencies.

Security agencies first came across a link between South India and Syria when a call was made to fight against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.     

Haja Fakruddin was brought to Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu from Singapore and was radicalised by an agency funded by radical Islamic groups based out of Singapore.

The Intelligence Bureau says there are several agencies in Singapore, Maldives and Sri Lanka that have been set up to radicalise youngsters. They work as recruitment agencies for terror outfits, who have found it easy to recruit from South India.

An IB officer said that when some extremists from Kerala were questioned, they revealed that terrorists like Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar were hero-worshipped.   

Zahir Hussain, a Sri Lankan operative arrested in Chennai recently, said he was in Chennai to recruit youngsters to wage a battle in East Sri Lanka and South India. The basic idea was to take their battle outside India, but every now and then the terror agencies needed to lure the men with a local terror plan to keep them interested in the cause, Hussain told his interrogators. 

Operatives from Kerala have been used largely to fight battles in Kashmir and Iraq. In the case of Tamil Nadu, and recently Telangana, youngsters have been picked up to fight battles in Syria and Sri Lanka. Several of them after being radicalised are sent off to either Singapore or Maldives from where they are launched into the world of jihad. 

During the course of investigations it was found that in Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the first ones to be tapped were those who had travelled to the Gulf for work.

They are lured with incentives to join the cause. While some are indoctrinated to fight battles abroad, there are some who are asked to remain in India and radicalise the youth.

The agency that has come under the scanner of the security agencies is the Tauheed Jammat. The agency which has been in operation since 2004 entered South India in 2007. They hired an engineer from Singapore to come to South India and recruit. 

Indian security agencies say there are several persons from the south who have gone missing. These individuals first leave the country and in a few months ask their families to join them. The recruitment agencies’ job is to ensure their safe passage.

IB officials say that South India poses a peculiar problem, which cannot be ignored. Jihadi groups have been treating it as a recruitment ground. Each day there is a new challenge and very often local politics of the region makes it a happy hunting ground for the jihadis, the IB points out.

Vicky Nanjappa in Bangalore