A journalist, a doctor, a researcher at the Defence Research and Development Organisation, an employee of a major computer MNC and an engineer – all professionals, many excelling in their chosen fields.
But they have also become the face of modern violent Islamic extremism. In contrast to the image of the jihadi being a madrasa-educated, semi-literate individual, today’s terrorist, to go by the profile of the various groups who come under the rubric of the ‘Indian Mujahideen’, can be from any segment of society.
The 16 people arrested last week – six in Bangalore, five in Hubli, four in Nanded and one in Hyderabad – allegedly for planning terrorist attacks, fall into this category. Muti-ur-Rahman Siddiqui is a reporter who covered the higher education beat for the English daily Deccan Herald, Master of Computer Applications student Shohaib Mirza and his brother Aijaz Mirza, a DRDO junior scientist, are among those arrested.
Educated and well-to-do individuals, who often lead double lives, have been involved in several strikes such as the Delhi Serial blasts in September 2008, which led to the deaths of at least 30 people
The others, too, are educated and relatively well-to-do, and are not the apocryphal madrasa product. Abu Bashar, a terror suspect arrested in 2008 for his alleged involvement in the Ahmedabad serial blasts the same year had made certain startling revelations in his interrogation about the new strategy of recruitment.
Sources say he had said: ‘Terror groups are on the lookout for young men who speak good English, are comfortable with using the Internet and computer and most importantly they would not look different.
‘New terror recruits who wear clothes such as jeans and T-shirt dress up like any other youngster and be part of the crowd.’
Sixteen people have been arrested in connection with planning terrorist attacks such as the one in Delhi in 2008 (pictured)
While counter-terror experts say this is part of the recruitment strategy of terror groups, this is also the consequence of the radicalisation of a section of the youth in the Muslim community.
‘With terror recruits having good jobs and leading normal lives it makes them less suspicious. They can go to colleges, work in corporate offices, mingle with the crowds and nobody can suspect them,’ an intelligence officer said.
Intelligence agencies and counter-terror experts believe the Internet is a major factor that has led to this phenomenon in giving an image makeover to terrorists.
The terror merchants
‘There is a lot of terrorrelated activity in cyber space. Educated people are needed for this. There is also a lot of provocative literature which is being read by the educated class making them vulnerable to terror recruits,’ former Intelligence Bureau chief Ajit Doval said.
The fresh arrests in Bangalore have once again put the spotlight on this new breed of terror recruits. Indian Mujahideen (IM) members who were arrested in 2008 have revealed that among their ranks they have been people such as Mohammed Ansar and Mohammed Sadiq Sheikh, software engineers from Mumbai, Afzal Usmani, a hotelier from the western suburbs of the city who was arrested from UP.
Also on their roster are Mohammed Mansoor Asgar Peerbhoy a software engineer employed by a subsidiary of Yahoo! in Pune, Riyaz Bhatkal – the son of the owner of a leather-tanning factory and computer graphics artist Qayamuddin Kapadia, who is the son of a cloth merchant.
These are just some of the recent examples of this changing trend of recruiting men who are well-off. Most of these arrests were a fallout of the Batla House encounter in Delhi in 2008 that led to the busting of various IM modules across the country.
Intelligence officials say most IM recruits were from affluent families. ‘Most of the boys were young. They were either studying at university or were young professionals,’ a police officer who investigated the IM cases said.
Interrogation of most of these suspects revealed they had access to good education and all forms of communication and some events disillusioned them making them easy targets for terror groups.
Almost all those arrested have said they wanted to take revenge for the Gujarat riots and the Babri Masjid demolition.
According to agencies, people from small Muslim dominated towns have been easy targets for the ones given the responsibility to recruit.
But now it is changing and they are also looking for recruits working in West Asia. This is something Abu Jundal also told interrogators that he was given the responsibility of ‘spotting talent’ among the educated Indians working in Saudi Arabia.
Jundal himself was a product of indigenous recruiting.