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Kerala’s ticking time bomb: The silent returnees of the Islamic State are back


New Delhi, Dec 18: The Islamic State set in motion a pattern, whereby several of its recruits were told to return to their home country and carry out attacks. This modus operandi had proven to be lethal and the Paris attack was one such example.

India's problem with the Islamic State has been discussed on several occasions and it has been found that the issue is most problematic in Kerala. The first big sign of the ISIS spread in Kerala was found when a batch of young people left the state for Afghanistan.

Kerala’s ticking time bomb: The silent returnees of the Islamic State are back

While this had given everyone the jitters, another batch of persons from Kannur in Kerala left the state and are suspected to be part of the ISIS.

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While this is one part of the worry, Intelligence Bureau officials say that the bigger problem is with those who are returning. The agencies are keeping a close watch on those persons returning from the UAE, Turkey and Syria. Most of these persons had left Kerala for Afghanistan and then landed in Syria or Turkey.

This was the big plan says an IB official. He tells OneIndia that the intention of leaving the country was not continue fighting in Afghanistan or Syria. It was largely with an intent of undergoing training and then returning to India, with an intention of carrying out attacks, brainwashing locals and also setting up modules.

The Indian agencies, apart from Syria are also focusing on those persons returning to Kerala from UAE and other West Asian countries. The task on hand is humongous. The problem is that they do not come in batches. They come in as individuals and then go about their business.

The other problem is keeping a track on those who have left from other states. The focus so far has been extensively on those who have joined the ISIS from Kerala. The possibility of those who have left from other states coming to Kerala is also high. This poses a different level of threat all together as monitoring such persons is hard, says the officer.

Officials also add that the ISIS modus operandi is in the procedure of completing a full cycle. It was at first thought that they were recruiting from Kerala so that they could be used in the fight at Afghanistan. However, the coordination with other agencies has suggested that many who had joined the ISIS in Afghanistan had gradually moved out of there for Syria or Turkey. Now these persons are gradually making their return to Kerala and this is worrisome, the official also explained.

The IB terms such persons as silent returnees of the ISIS. This is a new challenge for us and the vigil is high, the IB officer says. There are various routes that these recruits have been using. Those coming into India from Afghanistan had often entered into Nepal before making their entry. In these cases, the recruits are most likely to use the land route to avoid scrutiny. Once in India, it becomes easier for them to travel by road and reach their destination in Kerala.

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The entire strategy being adopted by these recruits is in line with what the chief of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Bhagdadi had said last year. He had said that the outfit was losing significant territory in Iraq and Syria. Now it was time for those foreign recruits to return to their homeland and carry out lone wolf attacks, he had said in an audio message.

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