India bans Islamic State, takes `first step` against West Asia terror group

ISIS cadres

New Delhi, Dec 16: After detaining an engineer for running a popular Twitter account extolling the Islamic State`s military campaign, the government on Tuesday declared a ban on the militant group.

Home minister Rajnath Singh told Parliament that the government aimed to limit the activities of the West Asia group which has carved out swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.

Rajnath Singh said: “We had taken cognizance of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria activities in other countries.” He further added: “As a first step we have banned this outfit in India.”

So far, India did not put a ban on the Islamic State, due to worries over the fate of 39 Indian construction workers missing in Iraq this year, who are believed to be held by the group.

Earlier, officials had suggested it would be harder to track sympathizers if the group was banned, driving them towards covert activity.

On Saturday, a 24-year-old food company executive, Mehdi Masoor Biswas, was arrested from the southern tech hub of Bengaluru, for allegedly running the pro-Islamic State Twitter handle @ShamiWitness that had 17,800 followers, including hundreds of foreign fighters for the group.

An officer reportedly said that Police were poring over 129,000 tweets he had posted over several years to determine if he was simply a cheerleader for the group or an online recruiter.

The Home Minister said: “It is true the number of Indians in the group or involved in its activities is only a handful, but I want to make clear we are taking this seriously.”

The ban on the group makes it easier for police to prosecute suspects.

Officials, however, fear that a ban on Islamic State could endanger the lives of 39 men believed to be held by the group since June.

It may be noted that India has the world’s third-largest population of Muslims, but they have largely shunned Islamist causes.

Till date, only four Indians are known to have joined Islamic State, and one has since returned and is in custody.

(With Agency Inputs)

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