ASTHA & ISIS target eight places in India and Bangladesh

Anita Mathur

Funder of Islamic State (ISIS) and convener of a pro-Caliphate group named ‘Astha’ (faith), Md. Shahid Uddin Khan has requested ISIS kingpin Saifullah Ozaki alias Abu Muhammed al-Bengali to launch jihadist attacks on eight separate targets in India and Bangladesh. These targets include Dhakeshwari Mandir, Dhaka (Bangladesh); Jagannath Temple at Eastern Boundary Road, Tikiapara, Khidirpur, Kolkata (India); Kalighat Kali Temple in Kolkata; Birla Mandir at Old Ballygunge Road, Kolkata; Taraknath Temple at Taraknath Mandir Road, Kolkata; Hindustan International Hotel at AJC Bose Road, Kolkata and Oberoi Grand Hotel at Dharmatala, Kolkata. They also plan to attack Eid congregation at Sholakia Eidgah in Kishoreganj district in Bangladesh.

Recently Islamic State declared the name of its ‘emir’ in Bengal. According to Dabiq, the mouthpiece of this jihadist group, name of the ‘emir’ is Abu Muhammed al-Bengali. Counter-militancy experts said, the real person behind this ISIS-pseudonym is Sajit Debnath aka Muhammad Saifullah Ozaki, the Japanese-Bangladeshi jihadist and former associate professor of Ritsumeikan University. Ozaki is the individual whose interview was featured in the 14th issue of ISIS’ flagship Dabiq magazine in April 2016. In that interview, Shaykh Abu Ibrahim al-Hanif (Ozaki’s kunya or Islamic nom de guerre) was identified as the “amir of the Khilafah’s soldiers in Bengal.”

The first part of Ozaki’s kunya (Abu Ibrahim — “father of Ibrahim”) is most likely based on the name of his youngest son, who is a minor. Ozaki and his Japanese wife have three sons, who are named after Islamic prophets. He used the name of his eldest son — also a minor — as part of another kunya he once took. Saifullah Ozaki has a PhD and is considered an expert on Islamic finance and economic theory.

Muhammad Saifullah Ozaki alias Sheikh Abu Ibrahim al-Hanif slipped through the Indian intelligence traps because of sloppy tricks of a fledgling spy that compromised a complex covert operation.

Top sources revealed Saifullah, a former teacher in a Japanese university, is the main recruiter of Rohingya youths in India. The Bangladesh based recruiter had planned raising several battle-hardened terror modules in India to brainwash the vulnerable refugee population. But, the months-long operation ended one sweltering September morning when most wanted IS leader was tipped off by his agent operating in Delhi about security agencies classified set-up.

While ISIS has been recruiting Rohingyas, another jihadist outfit Al Qaeda, through its Indian franchise AQIS has also been recruiting them from Delhi, West Bengal, Assam, Jammu and Kashmir with potent propaganda tool to radicalization vulnerable population. According to various aid agencies, about 40,000 Rohingya Muslims are living in India since fleeing their homeland of Myanmar in the wake of violence. Terming them illegal immigrants, the Centre has categorically said it seeks to deport all the Rohingyas. There also are above 1 million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

Who is Shahid Uddin Khan?

Md. Shahid Uddin Khan, along with his wife Farjana Anjum and daughters namely Shehtaz Munasi Khan and Parisa Pinaz Khan had smuggled out millions of dollars from Bangladesh and invested in various dubious business ventures in United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom. In 2009, the family invested two million pounds in the United Kingdom in exchange of obtaining immigrant status under Visa Tier 1, vide VAF No. 511702. Later the family had laundered an unknown amount of money and brought that into the United Kingdom.

On January 17, 2019, Dhaka residence of Md. Shahid Uddin Khan was raided by the members of the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of Bangladesh Police. CTTC, based on secret information, raided House No. 184, Road No. 2, Baridhara DOHS in Dhaka, Bangladesh on January 17, 2019. This house is owned by Md. Shahid Uddin Khan and was allegedly used as a warehouse for arms, explosives and propaganda materials of Islamic State (ISIS). During the raid, large volume of weapons, detonator, counterfeit Bangladesh currency notes and jihadist materials of ISIS were recovered by the CTTC unit.

Following this recovery, three separate cases against ISIS-funder Md. Shahid Uddin Khan, his wife Farjana Anjum, daughters and other accomplices were lodged. The cases are: Cantonment PS, Case no 10, Section-6(2)/7/11/12 of Anti Terrorism Act 2009 (amendment 2013); Cantonment PS, Case no 11, Section-25-A, Special Power Act 1974; and Cantonment PS, Case no 12, Section-19-A of Arms Act 1878.

Last year, Md. Shahid Uddin Khan, his wife Farjana Anjum, daughters namely Shehtaz Munasi Khan and Parisa Pinaz Khan and Khan’s jihadist comrades in the US, M. Sajjad Hussain, Nahid Parvin Neeru and Asif Hussain had formed ‘ASTHA’ with the ulterior agenda of establishing Caliphate in Bangladesh.

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