Most Indians fighting for IS based in Raqqa: Moideen

NEW DELHI: Islamic State group’s fighter Subahani Haja Moideen, an Indian who trained in Iraq in 2015 and met some of the Paris attackers, has informed Indian intelligence agencies that most youngsters from India who joined IS are based in the Syrian city of Raqqa, the de-facto capital of the self-proclaimed caliphate.

Based on his interaction with another IS senior member from India, who he was in touch with regularly during his five-month stay in Mosul last year, Moideen came to the conclusion that most Indian recruits are in Raqqa. Intelligence agencies are trying to verify his claims as their assessment suggests many Indians, including 22 from Kerala, are fighting for the IS in Afghanistan.

More than 60 Indians are said to have joined the Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi-led terrorist organisation since 2014 and some have been killed in the war there. An estimated 7,000 to 10,000 IS fighters are based in Raqqa while other IS fighters and their families are moving to Raqqa with Iraqi forces pushing them out of Mosul and nearby areas. US and allied forces are presently preparing to march to retake the oil rich Raqqa from the IS.

Top government officials say Moideen, the most battle-hardened recruit from India, has provided interesting details about life of an IS fighter inside its territory.

TOI accessed exclusive details of his interrogation. Moideen claims that once a foreign fighter, like him, reaches IS territory in Iraq or Syria, he is kept in a group of other foreign fighters — in his case numbering 22-25.

Moideen says he entered Iraq from the Turkish city of Urfa by cutting a barb wire at the border along with other fighters from Jordan, Germany, Europe, UK, France, Lebanon, Pakistan and Afghanistan, who were travelling with their families, in April 2015.

From there, they were taken to Tel Abaid town of Syria where they were kept in small houses. “We were given food twice a day — once before 10 am and second meal after sunset.

The day usually began very early in the morning when we pray, and then do exercise. After that we have to attend the two hours religious class everyday which is taken in Arabic and also translated in English,” Moideen says.

After the religious class every day, three senior IS members delivered the ‘baith’ (oath) of loyalty to recruits, six at a time, in the name of Al Baghdadi. The classes are held only for a couple of weeks.

After that, the men were taken to Mosul to the IS’ military training camp. Moideen was kept in a group named Umar Ibnu Khatab Khatiba, headed by a French national with the given name of Abu Suleiman Al-Francisi.

His group, as first reported by TOI, also had Pakistani national and former Lashkar-e-Taiba veteran bomb maker Mohammad Ghani Usman, arrested from Austria earlier this year and charged for Paris attacks 2015.

The arms training is extensive which covers learning how to use AK rifles, grenades, rocket launchers and even war tactics. The fighters, Moideen says, practice stripping and assembling weapons, most of which are dummies.