Sultan M Hali
PRIMA facie, the so-called Islamic State (IS or Daesh) is receiving a hammering in Syria and Iraq but fresh information has come to light that the terror mongers are engaged in a recruitment drive in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka using social media tools. According to PTI (Press Trust of India), IS chief recruiter in India, tech-savvy al-Hindi has been operating on facebook and other personal messenger services to contact, brainwash and recruit the youth from India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The report elaborates that the IS or Daesh claims that an Indian suicide bomber killed a number of people in an attack in Raqqa, Syria, the de-facto capital of the terror group.
In a statement in Arabic via its Amaq propaganda agency, the IS identified the Indian bomber as Abu Yusuf al-Hindi, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, a US based monitoring firm. The terror group claimed killing and wounding a “number” of what it described as “Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) apostates” in the suicide attack involving the Indian bomber. However, there was no confirmation about the IS claim by Indian agencies.
Al-Hindi was the fugitive chief recruiter for the IS in the Indian Subcontinent and was known as Mohammad Shafi Armar. He had many aliases like “Chotte Maul” and Anjan Bhai”. The 30 year old was named as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” by the USA in June, becoming the first Indian leader of the outfit against whom the US has imposed sanctions. An Interpol Red Corner notice was also pending against the bomber. Al-Hindi, a native of Bhatkal in Karnatka, was a leader and head recruiter in India for the Foreign Terrorist Organization and Specially Designated Global Terrorist group, according to the US State Department.
While announcing sanctions, the US State Department has said that al-Hindi cultivated a group of IS sympathizers who are involved in terrorist activities across India, such as plotting attacks, procuring weapons, and identifying locations for terrorist training camps. The master head hunter had escaped to Pakistan along with his elder brother after crackdown on Indian Mujahedeen cadres. There have been many reports of him having been dead in a drone attack or crackdown by the allied forces. However, every time, intelligence agencies began giving credence to such reports, his name or voice cropped up in intercepts, giving value to the information of his being hale and hearty.
Tech savvy al-Hindi has been operating on facebook and other social media to contact, brainwash and recruit young men from India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. His links to the IS were also the highlight of the interrogation of Yasin Bhatkal, who was arrested near the Nepal border in 2013. The Hezbollah used drones to strike the IS in Syria close to the border with Lebanon. India claims that the IS has no footprint on its soil but the activities of al-Hindi in India belie the Indian claim.
The US intelligence agency has done some remarkable tracking of Al-Qaeda and IS networks but sometimes the US gets it wrong. Recently, it prompted US public opinion builders in Afghanistan to commit one of the gravest mistakes by printing a leaflet having Taliban flag containing the Kalima-e-Tayyeba inscribed on the side of a dog being chased by a lion. In the image, the Taliban are depicted by the dog while the lion represents US-NATO forces. These leaflets have been dropped in the Parwan province of Afghanistan on September 5, 2017. Locals, who are opposed to the Taliban, have expressed their angst and displeasure over the Kalima being depicted on the back of a dog.
Since the Islamic teachings unite all Muslims, desecration of the words of the Quran is tantamount to blasphemy. Religious sentiments guide the average Afghan and they may put aside their animosity towards the Taliban to avenge the defilement of the Kalima by putting it on the back of a dog, which is considered unclean by Muslims. Even the Afghan Governor of Parwan declared the act as “an unforgivable sin of the US.” Since the Afghans rely less on TV and newspapers, dropping propaganda leaflets from the air is a regular part of military operations, often used by US led forces in Afghanistan.
Afghans have been airing protests against such provocations in the past as well. In 2012, copies of burnt Quran were found by an Afghan sanitary worker in Bagram air base. Resultant protests throughout Afghanistan caused numerous deaths and injuries. Once again in 2012, images of US Marines urinating on slain bodies of Taliban bodies hurt the sentiments of Afghans and human rights activists around the world. Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai was especially critical of US night raids in Afghan homes, which demonstrated disrespect to the Afghan privacy and an invasion of their cultural norms.
Such provocations can only fuel the ill sentiment against the Afghan occupation forces by a large segment of Afghan society. President Trump needs to come up with an out of box solution where a regional approach receives priority. Grave faux pas of the nature of that committed on September 5 will not achieve the desired results but rather work to the detriment of the mission plan. While targeting the IS or al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka or even in Pakistan, the protagonists must be mindful of local sentiments and not turn a winning battle into a losing one.
India on the other hand, has been known to sponsor the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), who have wreaked havoc in Pakistan, much to the joy and cheering of Indians but India should remember that nurturing snakes like al-Hindi on its own soil, is likely to backfire because the same snakes can turn around to bite their hosts. The best option for India should be to join forces with Pakistan. Pakistan is the citadel of Islam and is fully capable of defending itself, not withstanding Indian machinations. Al-Qaeda was defeated, Tehreek-i-Taliban were routed out and the IS have no place here but if the menace is to be weeded out and its roots terminated, it would be prudent to execute a coordinated action to combat the evil and eradicate it.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.
Sultan M Hali