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Terror glare on Turkey transit

New Delhi, Aug. 2: Intelligence agencies are keeping a close watch on flights to Turkey to check if Indian nationals are reaching strife-torn Syria and Iraq through the transcontinental nation to take up arms for the militant Islamic State.

The agencies have also drawn up a list of “radical” websites and are monitoring Internet chat rooms amid suspicions that volunteers were being recruited through cyberspace.

The move comes at a time the father of a young Indian believed to have joined the Islamic State met the Union home minister reportedly asking for action against those who had radicalised his son.

Sources said flights to Turkey had come under the radar of intelligence agencies after they found out that Haja Fakkurudeen Usman Ali, a Singaporean of Indian origin who fought for the Islamic State, had reached Syria through Turkey, a transcontinental republic with parts in both Europe and Asia.

Singaporean authorities had recently said that Haja, along with several other Singaporean nationals, was one of the 12,000 foreigners active in the Syrian civil war.

Intelligence agencies have also learnt that four Indian youths from Maharashtra had left for Iraq in May and were believed to have joined the Islamic State.

The sources said the Islamic State, previously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), had virtually outsourced recruitment of youths from across the world to “contractors” on Turkey’s borders with Syria and Iraq.

“We suspect that since Iraq is virtually a no-gone zone for many, young people may want to enter the region through ISIS ‘contractors’ in Turkey,” a government source told The Telegraph.

Security agencies have been on their toes especially after pro-azaadi protesters in Srinagar staged a brazen show of support for the Islamic State. Photographs of alleged support for the group in the Valley and also in Ramanathapuram, Tamil Nadu, have been posted over the past two weeks on social networking sites.

Most of the Islamic State’s young recruits from Europe and fighting its war in the region are believed to have entered through Turkey.

Sources in the agencies said Ankara has been contacted but the response till now has been “lukewarm”. Security agencies believe that Turkey at first looked the other way when the “contracting” began on its borders but got worried as the crisis engulfed the entire region.

Mosul, where about 40 Indians are still believed to be trapped, is under the control of the Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi-led Islamic State. The besieged Iraqi town is close to Turkey’s south-eastern border and to a tri-junction with Syria.

The IB recently held a meeting here with the heads of anti-terrorist squads of at least a dozen states, including Bengal and Maharashtra. The purpose was to update ATS sleuths so that they engaged community leaders to prevent Indian youths from being misled.

Yesterday, the father of one of these young men called on home minister Rajnath Singh, reportedly demanding action against those who had recruited his son.

The government source said sleuths were keeping watch through “different” means. The IB, in coordination with spy agency RAW, is now watching the situation as it unfolds and looking for trends.

According to the sources, potential volunteers are recruited through cyberspace. So the IB has drawn up a list of radical websites, they said, while moles from intelligence agencies were keeping watch on discussions in chat rooms.