A gymnasium operator and a journalism student, arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) from Pune for their alleged links with the Islamic State (IS), were taken to Delhi on Monday for further investigation. The duo will be questioned over their alleged links with a Kashmiri couple from Delhi, who were accused of having affiliations with the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), a banned terror organisation that is part of IS.
The NIA had arrested the two — Nabeel Khatri (27), who runs a gymnasium in Pune and Sadiya Shaikh (22), a student of mass communication at a Baramati college — on Sunday. Khatri has been accused of helping plan “violent terrorist attacks”, while Sadiya was allegedly trying to “build up a cadre of IS in India”.
According to the NIA, both Khatri and Sadiya Shaikh were allegedly in contact with the Kashmiri couple, Jahanazaib Sami Wani and his wife Hina Bashir Beigh, who were arrested in a case initially registered with the Delhi Police’s Special Cell on March 8 this year.
The Kashmiri couple, who lived in Delhi, “have affiliations with Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), which is a banned terrorist organisation and is a part of IS, and were found to be involved in subversive and anti-national activities. They were also found to be in touch with Abdullah Basith, who is already lodged in Tihar jail in another NIA case (ISIS Abu Dabhi module),” stated a press release issued by the NIA on Monday.
The agency claimed that “along with Jahanzeb Sami and Abdullah Basith, accused Nabeel Khatri was also actively involved in the planning to carry out violent terrorist attacks in India by arranging logistical support such as procurement of weapons, fake SIM cards, assembling of improvised explosive devices etc. to further the activities of IS in India. He was continuously in contact with Jahanzeb on various secure messaging platforms”
When The Indian Express visited the residential society in Kondhwa where Khatri lives, none of his family members were available for comment. Sources said Khatri has been on the radar of central intelligence agencies since 2017, and was being watched for his association with persons with a “radical Islamic mindset”.
The NIA, in the press release, further stated that “accused Sadiya Sheikh was continuously in touch with Jahanzaib Sami, Hina Bashir Beigh & Abdullah Basith on various secure messaging applications and deliberating on how to propagate the ideology of IS and further its activities in India. They were trying to build up a cadre of IS in India by recruiting gullible youth for terrorist activities.”
“It has also been revealed that Sadiya Sheikh was in contact with IS recruiters through social media since 2015. She was planning to execute a terrorist attack in Jammu & Kashmir and was detained by J&K Police in 2018,” the NIA claimed.
Sadiya’s mother told The Indian Express, “They (NIA officials) came to our house around 12.30 pm on Sunday and spoke to Sadiya at length. We fully cooperated with them from the beginning but they did not answer any of our questions. We wanted to know what the case is, what the charges are and what does she have to do with any of it. But they told us nothing. At 8.45 pm, they told us they were taking her with them. We asked why she was being taken away, but got no answer. We want to know what is going on.”
On January 26, 2018, Sadiya was put under arrest by the Jammu and Kashmir police, but was later released due to lack of evidence and handed over to her family. After her release by the Jammu and Kashmir Police due lack of evidence, Sadiya had addressed a press conference in Pune in February 2018, saying she had gone to Jammu and Kashmir to “secure admission in a nursing course at a local college.” She had also stated that she doesn’t “want to look back at her past,” and only wanted to continue her education.
But her mother told The Indian Express on Monday, “After the events of 2018, Sadiya had set herself on the right path. We had arranged counselling for her. She had joined a journalism course… And now this has happened. How long is she going to be punished for choices made in her past? I have no doubt in my mind that my daughter is innocent…We will be approaching the Minorities Commission and the dhief minister of Maharashtra to look into this wrongful action and ensure that innocent young people are not framed like this.”
While no offence was lodged against Sadiya in Maharashtra, the state Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) had, in December 2015, provided counseling to her with the help of Islamic clerics, as she was allegedly found mentally prepared to go to Syria to join the Islamic State (IS), after being influenced by online operatives of the terror groups.
Meanwhile, the NIA team took Khatri and Sadiya from Pune to Delhi by flight on Monday afternoon. “The two arrested accused will be produced before the NIA special court in Delhi,” stated the press release.
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