Two youngsters, including a woman journalism student, who were arrested by the National Investigation Agency in Pune on Monday for planning terrorist attacks in India were in touch with Hyderabad-based ISIS sympathiser Abdullah Basith.

The investigators said that Nabeel S. Khatri (27) and Sadiya Anwar Sheikh (22), both residents of Pune, were propagating the ideology of ISIS terror group as part of the activities of the outlawed Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP). While Khatri runs a gym in Pune, Sadiya is a second year student of Mass Communication and Journalism at Baramati.

A case was initially registered by Delhi Police Special Cell on March 8, 2020, after the arrest of a Kashmiri couple Jahanzaib Sami Wani and his wife Hina Bashir Beigh from Jamia Nagar, Okhla Vihar, Delhi. The couple had affiliations with ISKP, and were found to be involved in subversive and anti-national activities. “The duo from Pune were in touch with Basith, who is currently lodged in Tihar jail in another NIA case (ISIS Abu Dhabi module),” an official said.

The investigation by the agency revealed that Sadiya Sheikh was continuously in touch with Jahanzaib Sami, Hina Bashir Beigh and Basith on various secure messaging applications and deliberating on how to propagate the ideology of ISIS and further its activities in India. They were trying to build up a cadre of ISIS in the country by recruiting gullible youth for terrorist activities, the NIA said.

“It has also come to light that along with Jahanzeb Sami and Basith, accused Nabeel Khatri was also actively involved in the planning to carry out violent terrorist attacks in India by arranging logistic support such as procurement of weapons, fake SIM cards, assembling of Improvised Explosive Devices etc. to further the activities of ISIS,” the investigators said. It has also been revealed that Sadiya Sheikh was in contact with ISIS recruiters through social media since 2015. “She was planning to execute a terrorist attack in Jammu & Kashmir and was detained by police in the valley in 2018,” they said. The duo, who were arrested in Pune will be produced before NIA Special Court, New Delhi.

Nabeel Khatri was continuously in contact with Jahanzeb on various secure messaging platforms. Prior to his arrest in August 2018, Basith had created an Instagram account by the name ‘Musaib bhai’, through which he searched for pro-ISIS groups and used at least half-a-dozen mobile phones to dodge the security agencies. During the custodial interrogation last year, Basith disclosed about his visits and meetings where he discussed ISIS with the intention of hatching a further conspiracy to wage violent jihad.

The agency found that Basith was making efforts to propagate the ideology of ISIS in India for which he entered into a conspiracy with Adnan Hassan, who was arrested by the agency in connection with the 2016 Abu Dhabi module. In June, when they were taken into custody for interrogation, Hina Bashir Beigh tested positive for coronavirus, her husband Jahanzaib Sami, and Basith were found negative.

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