An Islamic State operative from Bhatkal, Karnataka, Shafi Armar was declared a global terrorist by the United States of America. The man who is the primary recruiter for the IS was presumed dead a few years ago. However the intelligence that was gathered later on found that he had faked his death to avoid the heat of the intelligence agencies.
The state department described Armar as a "leader and head recruiter in India for the Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) group, ISIS".
He became the chief recruiter in India after his brother Sultan Armar died in March 2015. The state department also listed his numerous aliases, including Anjan Bhai, Chote Maula and Yousouf al-Hindi.
"He has cultivated a group of dozens of ISIS sympathisers who are involved in terrorist activities across India, such as plotting attacks, procuring weapons, and identifying locations for terrorist training camps," said a statement from the state department.
Who is Shafi Armar?
Shafi Armar is the second among the three children of a family that hails from the coastal town of Bhatkal in Karnataka. His elder brother Sultan Armar is said to have taken him along with him and together they had joined the Indian Mujahideen.
Hailing from the same place, both Shafi and Sultan were taken into the IM by Riyaz Bhatkal. While Sultan was active in IM operations, Shafi was more of a second in command for the operations undertaken by his brother.
Shafi does not have any record of taking part in terrorist activities in the real sense. His activities were online and he was in charge of the media operations. A lot of literature concerning the ISIS posted on the Ansar site were said to be the handiwork of Shafi.
Currently his location is unclear. His family members in Bhatkal say that he and Sultan left home around 5 years back and they have no idea about their whereabouts.
Setting up the module:
When for the first time, Riyaz Bhatkal had roped in the Armar brothers, they were called to Pakistan. At Pakistan it was decided that the Armar brothers would go to Oman set up a base and then focus on Indian recruitments.
However an argument broke out over certain issues relating to Iqbal, the elder brother of Riyaz Bhatkal. The Armar brothers found that a sum of Rs 60 crore given to the Bhatkal brothers to carry out terror activities was misappropriated and not being put to the right use.
Further the Armar brothers also raised objections about Iqbal being involved in an illicit affair. They felt that this was anti Islam and objected to the same. A fight broke out and the Armar brothers decided to split. These incidents have been narrated to the police by Yasin Bhatkal who is presently in jail.
The Armar brothers then spoke with Yasin who was in India and told him about their intentions of breaking up with the IM. They said that they would want to shift loyalties to either the Al-Qaeda or the ISIS which had real concern about the religious cause.
After breaking away from the IM, the Armar brothers decided to join the Al-Qaeda. However at that point in time, the ISIS was growing fast and they felt that this outfit was a better bet. Also the fading prospects of the Al-Qaeda was another reason for them to consider the ISIS.
Both the brothers then went up online and began posting literature for the ISIS. They managed to get the attention of the top rung of the ISIS and one fine day as the Global Islamic Council was announced the Armar brothers became the choice for the ISIS. The Ansar-ul-Tawhid was floated and while Sultan decided that he wanted to battle along with the ISIS, Shafi decided to carry out activities online.
The Madhya Pradesh module:
Shafi's name cropped up in Indian investigations for the first time when a module in Rajasthan was busted in 2014. Shafi's name had cropped up briefly and the NIA felt that it was he who had carried out these recruitments.
When the module at Ratlam, Madhya Pradesh was busted in 2015, Shafi's name cropped up prominently. The members of the module headed by Irfan Khan said that he was in touch with Shafi and it is together that they planned a series of attacks in India.
The intention was to launch the first dedicated module in India for the ISIS. All these days the ISIS has only been recruiting out of India, but by setting up a dedicated module, they felt that they could boost up the recruitment drive.
According to Shafi, the module would provide the right platform for those youth who believed in the ISIS ideology but did not wish to travel to either Iraq or Syria.
IntelligenceBureau officials feel that Shafi has taken the mantle from his brother Sultan who was killed last month in a combat at Kobane in Syria.
The location of Shafi is still a puzzle. In the past 7 years, he has been traced to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Oman. The latest update on him suggests that he may be in Syria.
Over the past year his name has cropped up several times. Several modules of the ISIS have been busted. All the members of the module have said that they were being recruited and handled by Yusuf al-Hindi, an alias that Shafi Armar uses.