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Arrest of Sri Lankan Bomber’s ‘Friend’ Points to Daesh Presence in India - Analyst

© AP Photo / Dar YasinKashmiri Muslim protesters hold a flag of Islamic State as they shout anti-India slogans during a protest in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Friday, April 8, 2016
Kashmiri Muslim protesters hold a flag of Islamic State as they shout anti-India slogans during a protest in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Friday, April 8, 2016 - Sputnik International
India’s National Investigative Agency (NIA) searched seven locations in Coimbatore city of India’s southern Tamil Nadu state, which borders Sri Lanka, as they looked to take out a suspected Daesh terror cell.

New Delhi (Sputnik): The arrest of a man in India's Tamil Nadu state over his suspected links to the alleged mastermind of the 21 April terror attacks in Sri Lanka is a clear sign of Daesh's* existence in India, according to Major General (Retired) Dhruv Chand Katoch, an Indian security expert.

On Wednesday, India's National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested Mohammed Azharudheen, 32, the alleged head of a suspected Daesh branch in Tamil Nadu. The arrest came as the agency was carrying out search operations at seven locations in the state's Coimbatore city.

In a statement, the NIA claimed that Azharudheen was a Facebook friend of Zahran Hashim, the suspected ringleader of the Easter Sunday bombings that targeted Sri Lankan churches and hotels, leaving 253 people dead and over 500 injured.    

Besides Azharudheen, the probe agency also detained five other members of the terror offshoot. All of them are residents of Coimbatore city.

The NIA claimed that Azharudheen was highly radicalised. He was running a popular Facebook page, "Khilafah GFX". It also claimed that Azharudheen and his associates were propagating Daesh's extremist ideology to recruit vulnerable youth for terror attacks in southern India. 

In addition to the arrest, the NIA seized 14 mobile phones, 29 SIM cards, 10 drives, three laptops, weapons and several incriminating documents during the raids. 

In an interview, Maj. Gen.(Retd.) Katoch, an Indian security expert who serves as director of the India Foundation, a New Delhi-based think-tank, elaborated on the significance of the latest arrests in the backdrop of Daesh's reported expansion in South Asia.

Sputnik: India's National Investigation Agency (NIA) recently arrested a "Facebook Friend" of the Sri Lankan Easter Bombing's alleged mastermind. How do you view its significance?

Dhruv Katoch: The arrest has not come due to Mohammed Azharudheen being a Facebook friend of Zahran Hashim. It has taken place on the basis of hard evidence pointing to his and others' complicity in the terror attacks that occurred in Sri Lanka and the individuals having prior knowledge of it.

Sputnik: Is it possible that the terror attacks in Sri Lanka on churches and hotels could have been planned in India?

Dhruv Katoch: Some of the seized material, like a number of Sim cards and some weapons, point to a terrorist attack being in the offing for some time […] the Easter Sunday attacks conspiracy may also have been planned in India.

The arrest of these six persons shows that the ideological spread of the Daesh in India. That it exists in Kashmir has already been confirmed. Now, this arrest of Mohammed Azharudheen and others indicates that it also exists in certain parts of South India.

Sputnik: In view of Indian intelligence agencies forewarning the Sri Lankan authorities about possible terror attacks, do you think that Indian agencies are doing a good job in intelligence-gathering?

Dhruv Katoch: Well, nothing has happened of late. The Indian intelligence agencies have been on top of the situation. They have taken those preventive measures that don't come out in the newspapers. A great deal of peace and stability that we have seen is the direct result of the proactive steps taken by the NIA and other intelligence agencies in India.

Sputnik: How do you look at the road ahead in terms of the next stage of intelligence gathering and carrying out certain related operations in the near future in India?

Dhruv Katoch: What India will be doing now is to go after terrorists in Kashmir. There will be a targeted focus on sources of funding. The focus on these militants was already there as can be seen by the elimination of a large number of them. There will be a shift in focus in counter-terrorism measures. Diplomacy also has a role in that. The world is already sensitised to what is happening. The fact of the matter is that some Muslims have been so brainwashed that they are spread all across the world to carry out such type of attacks anyway, whether in Sri Lanka, or India, or Russia, wherever.

The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect Sputnik's position

*Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS/Islamic State) is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia and many other countries

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