A top commander and key member of the Indian Mujahideen terror group Shahnawaz Alam who had joined the Islamic State (ISIS), is suspected to have been killed towards the last days of the battle of Mosul. In an audio clip uploaded purportedly from Mosul, former IM members can be heard giving their last testimony about awaiting `martyrdom’, describing the conflict, the resistance by IS fighters and paying tribute to at least three fighters from Kerala who died in suicide bombing operations in Iraq.
The 21-minute audio clip was recently uploaded on pro-IS Telegram channels, apparently recorded on July 1 by Abu Muhammad al Hindi around the time the Iraqi coalition forces were closing on to liberate the western part of city from IS. Most of the group’s fighters had fled the city by swimming across the Tigris river or by disguising themselves as civilians, and the last bunch of foreign fighters were trapped as the coalition forces surrounded the old part of the city. Mosul was the largest stronghold of the terrorist group in Iraq and it was from here IS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi declared the establishment of the Caliphate in 2014.
“We are now in a 100 sq meter area. We are very close to where the bombing has taken place. We are trying really hard to get out…our other brothers too…I made two or three attempts to leave. We’ll see what happens. Inshallah! we should be able to get out. The tanks are closing in, but by now we are used to it,’’ an unidentified voice in the audio declares. “We are just waiting for Allah to accept us and give us shahada (martyrdom). The rest of my family is already in paradise.”
The audio has three individual voices including that of a young girl announcing her mother’s martyrdom in Urdu. It appears to be addressed to the brothers in India and members of the IM imprisoned in jail about the groups thoughts and experiences of fighting battles in the Caliphate.
Abu Muhammad introduced himself as a doctor. “Since I have come here, the Khilafat has taken great care of me, given me lot of facilities. I was a fighter for one month, then I got a call from medical, I did a course on trauma and then I became a surgeon. In the whole battle I have worked in the trauma room and the whole population of Mosul knew me.’’
The identity of the voices in the audio is yet to be verified but sources suspect Abu Muhammad to be Shahnawaz, alias ‘Dr’, a former member of the IM’s Azamgarh module, who once worked as a doctor in a private hospital in Lucknow. He was involved in planting bombs at Varanasi’s Dashaswamedh Ghat in February 2005, Mumbai local trains July 2006 and different locations in Delhi in September 2008.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) in its charge-sheet claimed that Shahnawaz fled from the Batla house encounter in 2008 and later escaped to Pakistan with other IM operatives. He then supposedly moved to Afghanistan to join al Qaeda and was actively involved in recruiting fresh operatives for training in Pakistan. The armed conflict in Syria and emergence of the ISIS group led to a split in the IM with members of the Azamgarh module swearing allegiance to Baghdadi and travelling to Syria. This group called itself Ansar-ut-Tawheed Fi Bilad al-Hind (Supporters of Islamic Monotheism in India) and encouraged Indian youth to fight and shared translations and subtitles of IS propaganda videos and literature in Indian languages. Some of these IM fighters were featured in a IS propaganda video from Syria last year, inciting Indian Muslims to join “jihad” and take revenge for the demolition of the Babri mosque and the Gujarat riots.
Intelligence officials claim to believe Shahnawaz, who carries a Rs 10 lakh reward on his head, is Abu Muhammad because of the IM connection and his medical background along with the description of his journey. In the audio he says he travelled across three countries to reach the land of Caliphate. Now as a core member of the IS, Abu Muhammad worked as an immigrant doctor in the medical department and hospitals in the IS held territory.
The change from a homegrown group to a global jihadi organization is evident in the ideological shift of former IM members, their target shifting towards America and Saudi Arabia as the greatest enemies. Blaming the coalition forces led by the US for hacking civilians to death and destroying Ayman (the old part of Mosul), Abu Muhammad called Indians to take revenge and attack Americans. “Their women, children, old people… kill them destroy them, burn down their houses. The maximum loss to the `deen’ of Islam is caused by America. Enter their place and kill them. Kill them wherever you can.” Without mentioning India, he criticized Indian Muslims for happily living a dishonored life among the lowliest unbelievers. “Walk on the path of Allah, recognize your religion and your abilities…pick up weapons, if not then immigrate to the nearest frontiers of Caliphate…follow jihad and hijrah, it’s a life of respect there.”
He also had a message for all the IM members currently in jail including Yasin Bhatkal. “You were one of our best colleagues… don’t abandon patience and faith. All your colleagues are seeping the land of Caliphate with their blood. Don’t be sad…you are with us in every fight.”
The audio praises the IM members for embracing jihad. Abu Muhammad also say “Many of our brothers from Hind are martyred here… and have performed Ishtishadi (suicide operations) but no one knows their names: Rouhani al Hindi from Kerala who came with me, Abdullah al Hindi from Kerala and Abu Hamza al Hindi a great friend and also a doctor and deputy chief of Shariah department. He died defending the state hospital. We were doing surgeries till the end.’” He added that because there were both al Hindi there would be lot of confusion in the minds of people as they would mix up their names. “They would confuse Abu Hamza with Abu Muhammad and vice-a-versa. We had a good time here.”
A senior official from the NIA said that they have recently received information on the deaths of the people from Kerala mentioned in the audio. “These kunya (aliases) are not known names. We are verifying their identities.’’
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