The recent arrest of 17 men of Ansar al Islam terror module has brought to the fore the rising propaganda of al-Qaeda in India through radicalisation and cyberspace.

India’s central Intelligence agency and police of Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal neutralised al-Qaeda-inspired Ansar al Islam module in March-April.

Among the 17 arrested individuals, four are Bangladeshis illegally residing in India, and the remaining ones are Indians. Six cases under various sections and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) have been registered against them by law enforcement agencies.

The Assam police had earlier arrested five persons from Howly, Barpeta and Kalgachia Police Station areas for their alleged links with a Jihadi outfit.

According to Intelligence Bureau, the Ansar al Islam module was disseminating al-Qaeda propaganda on social media and influencing and radicalising impressionable men towards its ideology. The module was also involved in instigating Indian youngsters for armed Jihad, planning targeted assassination of select right-wing leaders and personalities and mobilising funds from sympathisers for al-Qaeda.

This module first came to the notice of Central intelligence agency almost six months ago as they were found peddling a large volume of Islamic propaganda through encrypted chat platforms.

The first group of six individuals were arrested from Aishbagh and Karond areas of Bhopal on the intervening night of March 13-14 by the intelligence agency and the Madhya Pradesh Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS). The group included three Bangladeshis namely Olyullah Milon alias Jahuruddin, Jainal Abideen alias Akramul Haque and Fazar Ali alias Shariful Mandal along with three Indian nationals.

Electronic devices seized from the arrested individuals revealed voluminous data of Jihadi literature and videos linked to al-Qaeda. A huge cache of booklets on Jihad in both Bengali and Urdu was also recovered from their hideout in Bhopal. The operatives were being handled by al-Qaeda militants abroad. It is being learnt that the arrested men were also trying to create local modules of al-Qaeda in India.

In a follow-up operation, the central agency identified al-Qaeda-linked men from West Bengal, Tripura, Assam and Deoband in Uttar Pradesh.

West Bengal-based Amiruddin Ansary was arrested by the Special Task Force (STF) on March 15 for facilitating safe hideouts for al-Qaeda operatives. The Tripura Police on April 3 arrested three Tripura-based individuals (Imran Hossen and two of his associates). Imran was instrumental in setting up an al-Qaeda module in Western Tripura and had directed his associates to arrange safe hideouts for AQBD cadres.

Further, on April 14, six Barpeta, Assam-based al-Qaeda cadres led by one Makibul Hussain were arrested in a coordinated operation with the Assam Police. The arrested men were trying to establish a base in Assam, and Makibul Hussain and his two associates (Sulaiman Ali and Zahidul Islam) were also in direct contact with Bangladesh-based senior al-Qaeda leaders, according to sources.

Based on the information provided by the arrested al-Qaeda cadres from Assam, the central agency had identified one Deoband, Saharanpur-based Bangladesh national Md Talha Talukder, who was later arrested by Uttar Pradesh ATS on April 26. Talha played a key role in setting up of the neutralised al-Qaeda module by recruitment and motivations.

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