Homeland Security

Islamic State: The New Brand of Terrorism in India
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Issue Vol. 31.2 Apr-Jun 2016 | Date : 11 Aug , 2016

Fifthly, there were no clear connections among recruits from various states in its earlier phase. Only assorted connections were observed. For instance, Adnan Damudi from Bangalore was connected to the Telangana group in 2014 detained in West Bengal. Afsha Jabeen was linked to Salman Moinuddin, Mohammed Ahad was connected to Javed Sheikh and Ibrahim Nowfal. However, recently arrested modules appear to be linked to each other through a series of nodes and important facilitators who act as the common denominator for all the modules. Each of the group is driven by one single person who motivates his personal network to join.

Using updates from airports, Indian embassies in Libya, Turkey and UAE have to work proactively to identify potential travellers…

For instance, Maraicar from Tamil Nadu motivated Fakkrudeen Ali, Afsha Jabeen is linked to Salman Moinuddin and the Telangana group has been motivated by Basith. Hence, these persons act as facilitators or otherwise called as “cut-outs” in the intelligence parlance. This is the model which is adopted by terrorists groups which have a cell structure, where the leader of each cell communicates only through human “cut-outs”. However, in this case, these persons act as virtual “cut-outs”, where the interactions appear to be in the virtual world, which is difficult to interdict.

Sixthly, Indian recruits travel through various routes in order to travel to Syria and Iraq. The most travelled routes are from India to United Arab Emirates, Turkey to Syria, India to Libya to Syria and India to Sudan to Syria. The illegal crossings are from West Bengal in India to Bangladesh to onward journey and Jammu and Kashmir to POK to onward journey.

Interestingly, around nine Indian recruits have flown directly to Syria/Turkey from other countries of work or residence. Most of these recruits have been identified by “person missing” complaints. Hence, these complaints both in India and especially abroad in Gulf countries have to be treated with utmost priority. Using updates from airports, Indian embassies in Libya, Turkey and UAE have to work proactively to identify potential travellers.

Radicalisation in India’s Neighbourhood

Given the above scenario, radicalisation in India’s neighbourhood should also be of serious cause of concern for Indian policy planners. The Islamic State has a notable presence in countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh, even attracting recruits from Maldives and Sri Lanka.

Radicalisation in India’s neighbourhood should also be a serious cause of concern for Indian policy planners…


In its 12th issue of Dabiq entitled “Just Terror”, the Islamic State has given the clarion call for its jihadi campaign in Bangladesh with an article entitled “The Revival of Jihad in Bengal”4 dedicated to the cause of jihad. This is the first official instance of the Islamic State trying to revive jihad in the Indian subcontinent, concomitantly confirming the presence of the Islamic State in Bangladesh thereby posing serious security problems to India.

The Dabiq article has been authored by Abu Abdur Rahman Al Banghali, ostensibly a Bangladeshi himself, identified by the nom de guerre suffix ‘Banghali’, which refers to a person of Bengali origin. The use of the word ‘Bengal’ in the Dabiq article is explained by an annotation stating that “Bengal is what the region was referred to before the founding of ‘Bangladesh’ by nationalists in 1971.”

The Dabiq article has claimed that the Islamic State’s security cell has carried out the following attacks in 2015.

  • September 28 – assassination of Cesare Tavella, an Italian citizen.
  • October 03 – assassination of Kunio Hoshi, a Japanese citizen in the city of Rangpur.
  • October 24 – multiple IED attacks on a Shia procession in Dhaka, killing one and wounding eighty-seven others.
  • November 04 – assault on a police checkpoint in Dhaka, killing one policeman and wounding another.
  • December 25 – suicide bomb attack on Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat at the Baghmaraupazila of Rajshahi, killing the suicide bomber and injuring five. Baghmara is 250 km from Dhaka.

According to a recent study commissioned by the International Centre for Ethnic Studies in Sri Lanka, there are no Islamic jihadist groups operating there.

In addition to that, the Islamic State has also claimed responsibility for killing a Hindu priest in Bangladesh in 2016. Islamic State has released recruitment videos and audio messages in Bengali targeting the Bengali speaking population both in Bangladesh and in West Bengal in India.

Sri Lanka

The Islamic State revealed the identity of the first Sri Lankan national killed in Syria fighting for the Islamic State. The November 2015 issue of Dabiq has claimed that 37-year old Sri Lankan national identified as Mohamed Muhsin Sharfaz Nilam also known by his nom de guerre Abu Shurayh al-Silani was killed between May to July 2015 in Raqqa during a US-led air strike.  Another Sri Lankan, Thauqeer Ahmed Thajudeen also known by his nom de guerre Abu Dhujana Silani is believed to be still fighting for the Islamic State in Syria. This is the first instance where a Sri Lanka national has been found to have joined the Islamic State.

According to a recent study commissioned by the International Centre for Ethnic Studies in Sri Lanka, there are no Islamic jihadist groups operating there.6 As per this latest report, the Islamic State could fill this void, using the conflict between Wahabism and Sufism within Muslims in Sri Lanka.

According to the Soufan Group, around 200 recruits from Maldives are fighting with the Islamic State…


According to the Soufan Group, around 200 recruits from Maldives are fighting with the Islamic State.7 Of this at least, seven are believed to have been killed fighting for the Islamic State.

Islamic State activities in Bangladesh, pose a serious threat to India’s national security. Given its porous border with Bangladesh and its restriction-free Visa regime with Maldives and Sri Lanka, potential operatives could either choose India as a transit point or as a staging post to further their activities. The Bangladeshi government has already handed over a list of 204 top terrorists who are presently in hiding in India.8

Moreover, by virtue of its physical proximity to these countries, West Bengal and Bihar on the Bangladesh border, Kerala with its Maldivian connections and Tamil Nadu with its Sri Lankan connection, could pose a serious threat to India’s security.


Till 2015, roughly around 14 persons (50 per cent) have been put through de-radicalisation. However, the success of this de-radicalisation program is yet to be ascertained. This program known as the “Telangana model” initiated by the Telangana police has shown some chinks in its armour. For instance, two youngsters who were already on the de-radicalisation program since 2014, have been detained in December 2015, when they attempted to go to Syria again. In another instance, a person, who was under the de-radicalisation program after being deported from Turkey, was arrested in 2016 as he was in the process of radicalising another group of youngsters.

India could witness a rise in violent terror attacks carried out by home-grown groups with active assistance from external groups…

There is a clear possibility that, increasing difficulty amongst recruits to leave India, may force some of them carry out “lone wolf” attacks either at the behest of the Islamic State or individually. Some of recruits who were stopped could join local terror groups such as the Indian Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba or become ‘surrogates’ for other transnational groups. New recruits may leak information on the topography of major installations, power generation units, ports, airports, rocket-launching centres and other critical infrastructure to the terror group which could be used in a terrorist strike.

For a country like India which has its own share of homegrown as well as foreign terrorist groups, the rise of the Islamic State in India and in its neighbourhood could only add to the existing complexities both at the strategic and tactical level. India could witness a rise in violent terror attacks carried out by home-grown groups with active assistance from external groups such as the Islamic State. It is also imperative to understand that Indian counter terrorism measures which are custom-made to counter IM and LeT, could become redundant as trained foreign nationals (especially Westerners), who could bypass the Indian security measures, could possibly be a potential source of threat. For instance, Indian counter terrorism program never anticipated an American jihadist (David Coleman Headley) to conduct reconnaissance for the LeT, which was focused on operatives of Pakistani or Indian origin. On the other hand, given the huge resources, there is a possibility that non-conventional attacks could replace usual conventional attacks. Details to weaponise and deploy biological weapons such as bubonic plague by the Islamic State have already been uncovered in Syria.

Competition among fundamentalist groups could push each of them to outdo others who would evolve in a constant state of ‘one-upmanship’. There are already strong indications of such a threat emerging in India. Incidentally, the Al Qaeda’s first cell in the Indian subcontinent was recently uncovered in Sambhal. Given this discovery, the Islamic State’s growth in India will lead to competition among like-minded groups such as Al Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent, which would spur them on to unleash more violence in different parts of India. Constituted by a literate membership, driven by hardcore ideology, the Islamic State in India has essentially become a new brand of terrorism which is as yet unseen in the annals of political violence.


  1. IS readying for attack on India: US Report, The Hindu, July 30, 2014 available at  http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/is-readying-for-attack-on-india-us-report/article7478202.ece (accessed on 31/003/2016)
  2. Threat from IS is serious, Rajnath tells Russia, The Hindu, September 8, 2015 available at http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/threatfromisisseriousrajnathtellsrussia/article7626377.ece (accessed on 31/003/2016)
  3. EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report 2007, The Europol , March 2007, available at https://www.europol.europa.eu/sites/default/files/…/tesat2007_1.pdf
  4. This article features in the 12th issue of Dabiq which is the official English mouthpiece of the Islamic State.
  5. ibid
  6. Mohamed Faslan & NadineVvanniasinkam, Fracturing Community: Intra-group relations among Muslims of Sri Lanka, International Centre for Ethnic Studies, November 2015, available at http://ices.lk/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Fracturing-Community.pdf (accessed on 31/03/2016)
  7. Foreign Fighters, An Updated Assessment of the Flow of Foreign Fighters into Syria and Iraq, The Soufan Group, December 2015 available at http://soufangroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/TSG_ForeignFightersUpdate3.pdf (accessed on 31/03/2016)
  8. Kallol Bhattacherjee, We are tracking two IS killers inside India, says Bangladesh, The Hindu, November15,2015 available at http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/we-are-tracking-two-is-killers-inside-india-says-bangladesh/article7913542.ece(accessed on 31/03/2016)
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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Dr V Balasubramaniyan

is a research scholar at the Research Department of Defence & Strategic Studies, Guru Nanak College.

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