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Tamil Nadu’s Islamic State problem and why Cuddalore is back on the radar

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Chennai, Oct 2: A specific threat to the Cuddalore jail in Tamil Nadu has once again raised the question about the big presence of the Islamic State in the state. Tamil Nadu and the ISIS have had a long association and it was from this state that the first known recruit was reported.

File photo of Cuddalore Central Jail

This time around the threat is to the jail where a top ISIS operative Ansar Meeran is lodged. He was arrested on the charge of mobilising funds and facilitating the travel of a few persons to both Iraq and Syria.

NSA visits Iran to discuss regional peace and security from ISIS

The National Investigation Agency which received this input has shared it with the Tamil Nadu police following which security has been stepped up. The input suggests that operatives of the ISIS are planning to strike at the jail and try and free Meeran.

The Tamil Nadu connect:

The first known ISIS recruit from India was in fact a resident of Cuddalore. Haja Fakkruddin, it may be recalled had in early 2014 left for Syria through Singapore to be part of the ISIS. This was followed by a series of events related to the group and there was an image on the social media that went viral, in which several youth were seen posing with ISIS merchandise.

The threat of the ISIS has been looming large in the state and there are several pockets where the problem is severe. While looking into Haja's case, it was found that he was radicalised by a Cuddalore based group, .

Haja is not the only operative from Cuddalore to have joined the ISIS. A computer engineer was deported recently from Singapore. He said that it was he who had introduced Haja to this organisation, following which he was radicalised.

During the various searches, literature relating to the ISIS had been found. Speeches of the 20th century Islamist thinker Abul Ala Maududi have been found in the possession of several youth. Further the police have also seized compact discs which had the speeches of radical elements such as Anwar Al Awlaki and Abdul Raheem Green.

ISIS operative from Kerala deported to India

The TN connection:

In its 2016 chargesheet, the National Investigation speaks about the role of Mohammad Naseer, a computer engineer in his mid 20s. Naseer was heading to Libya from Sudan, but was apprehended and later deported to India.

He did his computer engineering from the MNM college in Chennai. It was at this time that he would visit a mosque at Chennai which was run by the Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamath, non-political Islamic Organisation that preaches a puritanical version of Islam.

This group was founded by P Jainul Abdeen in 2004, when he broke away from the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam.

The role of the ISIS in Tamil Nadu was unraveled in a big way in 2014. In August 2014, the police arrested Abdul Rahman and Mohammad Rizwan from the Ramnathapuram district on the charge that they were distributing t-shirts with the ISIS emblem. A photo showing 26 youth posing with the t-shirt in front of a Mosque at Thondi had surfaced on the social media. While the police were not able to find any direct link with the outfit, it however showed that the ISIS was gradually being received in the state.

In Tamil Nadu, there are several groups which have been trying to wade off this threat. The high number of radicalisations in the state since early 2013 had left security agencies and many members of the Muslim community worried.

Intelligence Bureau officials tell OneIndia that the threat in TN is not just from the ISIS. The Al-Qaeda through its various shadow outfits have set up shop in the state. One such outfit is called the Base Movement, which subscribes to the Al-Qaeda's ideology.

The combination of terror groups in South comprises both underground and overground operatives. There are groups such as the Al-Ummah which operate openly and focus largely on political hits. The blast at Coimbatore or the one outside the BJP office in Karnataka in 2013 all bore the signature of the Al-Ummah as the attacks were political in nature.

J&K: 5 terrorists killed, but spurt in recruitment's remains a concern

The spill out:

The problem of the ISIS did not remain restricted only to Tamil Nadu or the rest of South India. The spill out of this was felt in Maharashtra, where four persons left India for Syria to join the outfit. However, the biggest case relating to the ISIS was again reported from South India. Nearly 23 persons had gone missing from Kerala and investigations showed that they had joined the ISIS in Afghanistan.

The Afghan wing of the ISIS has been heavily recruiting Indians and the target has always been South and Kerala in particular. It was found that it is easier to target youth from Kerala due to the high levels of radicalisation and hence this has been a preferred destination.

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