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Updated March 2nd, 2024 at 09:53 IST

NIA Mission Karnataka: With 2 main handlers, ISIS new option to banned PFI in south India

The National Investigation Agency is on a mission in Karnataka to tackle ISIS, which is being seen as an alternative to the banned outfit PFI down south.

Reported by: Prajwal Prasad
Abdul Mateen Taha of ISIS Karnataka
Abdul Mateen Taha of ISIS Karnataka | Image:Republic TV
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Karnataka: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is on a mission in Karnataka to bring the role of the terror organisation Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to the fore. In its findings, ISIS Karnataka has emerged as an alternative to the banned radical outfit Popular Front of India (PFI) in south India.

But how did the NIA crack down on the Ballari ISIS unit? What is the reason that the former PFI cadre is attracted to ISIS? Who is the handler of suspected terrorists including Minaz aka Mohammed Suleiman of Ballari? Who is responsible for all those in PFI joining ISIS?

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Two ISIS handlers prominent

These questions have come up during the line of investigation, and the names of two handlers have cropped up prominently - Abdul Mateen Taha and Colonel. Even in earlier cases, these handlers have figured prominently in the scheme of things. 

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Taha and Colonel are mainly linked to all cases connected to the PFI and ISIS in Karnataka and across south India. The two were named by the arrested terrorists in the Mangaluru cooker bomb blast, the Shivamogga trial blast case, the Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN) case, and in the latest explosives case in Ballari.

NIA officials are after these handlers who are believed to be operating somewhere from the Middle East. Only the mastermind Minaj had a direct connection with the handler suspected to be Colonel or Taha. All the others were working under Minaj's instructions.

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ISIS influence rising in Karnataka, even as PFI plans to regroup

There have been indications that the banned outfit PFI is trying to regroup in Karnataka. But with lack of funds, assistance and also central agencies cracking down on sleeper cells of PFI, radicalised youth have found their calling with ISIS.

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According to sources: 

1) ISIS’ access to funds and ammunition is unprecedented.

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2) ISIS is finding it easier to radicalise youngsters who were part of the PFI.

3) ISIS Leadership establishing base mainly down south in Karnataka.

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Who is Minaz aka Mohammed Suleiman?

ISIS used to mainly target youths in Coastal Karnataka and the Malnad region for their operations. It found an able asset in the form of Minaz aka Mohammed Suleiman. Who is Minaz?

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Minaz was the former district secretary of PFI in Ballari. After the ban on PFI, many PFI cadres slipped into the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), whereas a few others were not happy with the SDPI ideology. 

Colonel used this opportunity to recruit Minaz, who recruited four others - three from Ballari and one from Bengaluru - to carry out anti-national activities. 

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Minaz radicalised these youths by exploiting their financial status by providing monetary support. He also brainwashed them stating that the country and institution was against Islam. Minaz propagated the idea of establishing an Islamic Caliphate in 2047, which is an ISIS ideology.

Who is handler Abdul Mateen Taha? Is he the same as Colonel?

Abdul Mateen Taha is a resident of Thirthalli in Shivamogga. He has been absconding since 2020 after the NIA crackdown in Tamil Nadu (TN) in connection with ISIS Al-Hind module. Taha was last seen by his parents in 2017 before he came to Bengaluru to study engineering.

Taha's associate Arafat Ali was nabbed by the central agencies in 2023 at Delhi airport on charges of trying to carry out terror activities in the country. Arafat confirmed that Taha and he were a part of the ISIS Al-Hind module.

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Taha was also the handler of Shareeq, the prime accused in the Mangaluru cooker blast case. It was Taha who transferred money to Shareeq in the form of crypto currency to fund the Shivamogga trial blast case. Now, doubts arise whether Taha and Colonel are two different individuals or they are the same.

A source speaking on the condition of anonymity to Republic said, “Abdul Mateen Taha along with his associates in 2019 planned, plotted and assassinated a TN police inspector because their terror plot was foiled and a case was registered in Suddagunte Palya police station. All his activities then came under the radar of the NIA who launched a manhunt for him. But I believe he has escaped abroad and is operating from there, trying to damage the nation.”

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The ISIS units captured by the NIA is only the tip of the iceberg as far as the outfit’s plans go. It doesn't end there and the larger picture is that these handlers are responsible for funding and radicalising youth directly or indirectly. The central agencies are hot on their heels and it is a matter of time before they are brought to justice.

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Published December 21st, 2023 at 13:24 IST

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