An Islamic State (IS) recruiter calling for large-scale attacks on non-Muslims across India may be the same preacher from north Kerala who joined an IS camp in Afghanistan last year.
In an audio clip transmitted via Telegram app, Abdulla Abdul Rashid exhorts students to drive trucks into Hindu crowds celebrating Thrissur Pooram (festival) or poison the drinking water supplied to millions of Hindu pilgrims who gather on river banks to celebrate Khumb Mela.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which examined the tape this week, has identified the voice on tape as that of Rashid who left Kerala along with 20 others to join an IS camp in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province.
Since IS militants are using vehicles to launch attacks on crowds in Europe, NIA is planning to send a team to Belgium, Germany, France and the United Kingdom to learn how they responded to such attacks.
Rashid, who hails from Thrikaripur village in Kasaragod, used to teach Quran at a local school. Some villagers say he converted many to Islam and inspired them to join IS.
In the audio clip circulated on WhatsApp to the radical group Popular Front of India (PFI), Rashid says: “Students, please use your brains and follow Mujahideen methods. If you have weapons, use them to kill all non-Muslims at religious gatherings. Run trucks over pooram revellers, kill Maha Khumb pilgrims by poisoning their drinking water and derail trains.”
“There should be no democracy, Hinduism, Christianity or any other faiths. The world should follow only the rule of Allah,” he says.
He also mocks Hindu religious practices. “Where is India heading toward with these foolish Hindus worshipping cows, snakes, and Shiva linga,” he asks.
In a Telegram message sent soon after he reached Nangarhar last year, Rashid had told a friend in Kerala that while the life of an Islamist fighter is short, the rewards waiting for him in heaven are great.
ET Mohammed Basheer, MP and leader of the Indian Union Muslim League, told media that his party stands for communal harmony and democracy and does not support Rashid’s ideas.
PFI, which is under NIA’s scanner over suspected terror links, described Rashid’s comments as that a “lunatic” but raised doubts about the authenticity of the tape.
Officials of Paramekkavu and Thiruvambady temples, the main participants in Thrissur Pooram, said they are viewing IS threat seriously.
“Initially, we thought the tape was mere propaganda. Now that NIA has intervened, we’re taking it seriously. We will seek the help of anti-terrorist squad to ensure that no untoward incident happens during the festival,” said Professor Madhavan Kutty, secretary of Thiruvambady Devaswam (trust).
G, Rajesh, secretary of Paramekkavu Devaswam, said: “We’re aware of the tape and have already alerted the police. We’ll ensure that security measures are in place not only for Thrissur Pooram but also other preceding poorams.”
What drives Rashid to send the audio clip through Telegram app may be sheer desperation in getting new recruits. He claims this is the 50th audio tape he is transmitting via Telegram app.
With IS strongholds falling to Syrian and Iraqi forces, militants are returning to India instead of heading for Nangarhar where US dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb in April killing at least 36 IS fighters.