Zakir Naik’s NGO gave scholarship to IS man

NEW DELHI: In what could be the first evidence of a direct link between controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik and his NGO Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) with the Islamic State‘s Indian recruits, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has found that IS operative Abu Anas received Rs 80,000 as scholarship from the IRF.

The funds were transferred around the time Anas was planning to travel to Syria to join the IS, sources said. He had applied for the IRF scholarship on its website and he was called for an interview in Mumbai. Anas was arrested in Rajasthan in January. The link will add teeth to the government’s investigation of Naik under anti-terror laws while the IRF has already been banned and is being probed.

The payment emerges as an alleged link between the IRF and the IS, with sources suspecting that Naik’s aides could not have been unaware of Anas’s plans and extended him financial assistance by disguising it as a “scholarship”. Anas, 24, was in regular touch with IRF office bearers and the money was transferred to his ICICI Bank account in Tonk in Rajasthan, sources said.

The IRF and Naik have been under the scanner of Indian agencies since the preacher’s name surfaced as a “motivator” in the Dhaka Gulshan terror attack case. Several Indian recruits of the IS have since acknowledged to have been inspired by Naik’ preachings to join the organisation and travel to West Asia to fight for the so-called caliphate.

Naik has denied that he is “terrorist influencer” and said his preachings reached 150 countries.

Anas, a former information security analyst with TWG International at Abids at Hyderabad, was arrested by NIA as part of a multi-city IS module in January-February.

In the ongoing crackdown on Naik+ and his NGOs, fresh raids on Tuesday saw agencies claiming recovery of video tapes and DVDs of Naik’s public speeches, documents related to property and investment, financial transactions and foreign and domestic funding of IRF and associated companies.