Investigations into the Indian module of Islamic State (IS)-inspired Junood-al-Khalifa-e-Hind, is leading a trail to Dubai.Bhatkal resident Ismail Abdul Rauf, who was wrongly intercepted by the intelligence agencies at Pune airport recently, may not have been a wannabe IS recruit or a Syria-bound jihadist. His interrogation, however, has given leads to investigators on missing links that could be a part of the large jigsaw puzzle, including the alleged IS fighter Shafi Armar alias Yousuf al Hindi, and how he purportedly funded to raise an Indian-affiliated jihadi group through Dubai.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Known as the mecca of money laundering or hawala operations, Dubai, along with other countries in the Gulf region, houses a large Indian diaspora. Importantly, various armed groups, including the IS, in the ongoing conflict in Syria are funded through a network of private donations, collected from sheikhs, tribal leaders, influential ulemas and Arab diaspora based in Gulf countries. These two factors could be a starting point in unraveling the funding of Junood-al-Khalifa-e-Hind group outside the Indian territory by the Indians living in Gulf.The trail began in January, soon after the NIA arrested over 20 men in a nationwide crackdown after monitoring their social media activities. The arrested had common links of connection with al Hindi, who investigators believe is based in Syria with the IS group. During the raid at Mudabbir Sheikh’s Mumbra house, the police recovered cash of Rs 1.95 lakh. In his interrogation, Sheikh revealed that the amount was a part of Rs 6.4 lakh he received in two separate transactions through hawala operations facilitated by al Hindi. Sheikh is the only member of Junood Khilafa to have received money from al Hindi to set up the group, organise meetings and help other members logistically to manifest the operations.He was put in charge of disseminating the funds to the other members based in Maharashtra, Karnataka, UP, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu – now in judicial custody – who never met each other personally, but confessed to have been roped in by al Hindi, NIA officials said.Last November, Sheikh got the first intimation from al Hindi to receive a hawala transaction under the code name ‘Nadeem’. In a few days, he received the sum of Rs 1.6 lakh from a hawala operator in Mumbai’s bustling bazaars adjoining the iconic Crawford market. With the test run of the first transaction successful, Sheikh was told to collect another delivery from another operator in a fortnight. This time the sum was larger, Rs 4.8 lakh.Between December and January, when they were finally arrested, Sheikh’s cache of Rs 4.72 lakh was distributed upon al Hindi’s orders to various members including Malik Banda alias Mohsin of UP (Rs 3 lakh), Rs 50,000 each to Imran Moazzam Khan of Aurangabad, Mohammad Hussain Khan alias Jameel of Mumbai, Nafees Khan of Hyderabad who also gave a part of the funding to Ashik Ahmed of West Bengal (arrested in March). The money was used for travelling and purchasing mobile phones, laptops, and even clothes.“The IS-inspired module in India has so far only one form of organised funding through hawala. The main suspect, al Hindi, seems to have thoughtfully picked out roles for each of the members like Sheikh for organising and financing without letting them know what the other was doing. This was obviously done to avoid detection by intelligence agencies and getting caught,” said an NIA official.Rauf’s arrest at Pune airport, triggered by a lookout circular issued in a similar phonetically sounding name earlier in April, turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. Rauf, who was travelling to Dubai, was not the IS suspect the NIA was looking for, but his interrogation revealed details that investigators believe join the dots in the funding and hawala transactions.Rauf had earlier travelled to Dubai 10 months ago to work as a labourer and came into contact with another Bhatkal resident, Ismail Nanda. During the time of their acquaintance, Nanda asked Rauf if he knew any hawala operators in Dubai and the latter gave contact of an operator, Abdullah Umaid. Officials investigating the case said Rauf was later contacted by Nanda and asked to check if ‘Nadeem’ (code name for Sheikh’s hawala transaction) got the money. Rauf did not know who Mudabbir Sheikh was but it is believed that Nanda used the hawala operator in Dubai, suggested by Rauf, to make the transaction.Rauf was earlier a suspect in the case, but NIA has now made him a witness and are verifying the information provided by him. The agency is also making use of the mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) with Dubai to dig deep into Nanda’s identity and find if he facilitated the hawala transactions to India at the behest of al Hindi or any other IS leader. If substantiated, it will take the investigation closer to proving that al Hindi used the IS group’s funds – collected illegally by smuggling and selling oil, antiquities, collecting taxes from population living in its territory, ransom and selling Yezidi women as slaves among other methods – to raise a module in India.

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Funding trail on India’s IS module leads to Dubai