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Was a Pakistani Handler Running ISIS Module Busted by NIA? Officials Probe 'Peshawari' Connection

The NIA registered the case against main accused Mufti Mohammed Suhail and his nine associates after the Central government received “credible information” that a group of pro-IS individuals had floated a terror outfit.

Arunima | CNN-News18Arunima24

Updated:December 29, 2018, 7:44 AM IST
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Was a Pakistani Handler Running ISIS Module Busted by NIA? Officials Probe 'Peshawari' Connection
Four of the 10 accused, arrested in ISIS case, being produced at a special NIA court in New Delhi, Thursday, Dec 27, 2018. (PTI Photo)

New Delhi: Does the IS Amroha module have a Pakistan connection? That is the question the NIA investigators are grappling with after it was revealed that the handler who gave instructions to mastermind Mufti Sohail called himself Abu Malik 'Peshawari'.

The NIA registered the case against main accused Mufti Mohammed Suhail and his nine associates after the Central government received “credible information” that a group of pro-IS individuals had floated a terror outfit and was preparing to target places of importance in and around Delhi.

On Wednesday, the accused were arrested by the NIA in a joint operation with the Delhi police’s Special Cell and the Anti-Terrorist Squad of Uttar Pradesh.

"Yes, there does appear to be a Pakistani connection," an official told CNN-News18 on condition of anonymity.

The officer also said that Mufti Sohail spoke to Peshawari using the online name Abu Basir Al Khurasani.

Sources said Mufti Sohail first got in touch with Peshawari on Facebook and then on closed group chat platforms like Telegraph and Threema.

Officials investigating the case said more details about Peshawari will emerge after forensic tests on the mobile phone and other electronic devices seized from Mufti Sohail.

"We will know only after the mirror image of the electronic devices are given to us post forensic analysis," said the same official.

While the alias Peshawari is intriguing investigators, this isn't the first time that a possible Pakistan connection is emerging in the context of IS modules in India.

In earlier IS modules, the handler used the online ID of Abu Al Hindi. It is believed that Bhatkal resident Shafi Armar used the Al Hindi id. Armar had fled to Pakistan after the crackdown on Indian Mujahideen. Agencies believed ISI trained him before he joined IS and left for Syria.

The NIA's chargesheet in previous IS cases accused Armar of recruiting youngsters for the Jund ul Khalifa-e-Hind, an IS-inspired organisation. He earlier headed the Ansar-ul Tawhid fil Bilad al-Hind — "Supporters of Monotheism in the land of India" — a breakaway faction of the IM.

While US agencies had claimed Armar had died in air strikes, Indian agencies say till his body is recovered nothing can be confirmed.

The challenge before the NIA is to now unravel if Abu Malik Peshawari is the new identity for Yusuf Al hindi alias Shafi Armar or if a new Pakistani linked handler is radicalising Indians.

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