As they search for four people believed to have joined the militant group ISIS in Iraq, the police in Maharashtra suspect more young men could have taken that route.
Aarif Majeed, Aman Tandel, Shaheen Tanki and Fahad Shaikh have been missing since May, when they went on a pilgrimage to Iraq. They allegedly have a common link – two businessmen from Thane near Mumbai, who met them regularly and are suspected to have influenced them.
The four reportedly left by an Etihad flight on May 25, claiming they were going for a pilgrimage to the holy city of Karbala in Iraq.
Sources say on May 31, they suddenly separated from their group in Iraq and took a taxi to Mosul, a city under ISIS control.
Police sources say they have seized computers and pen drives from their homes. The men reportedly paid for the trip in cash.
They never came back, but their families have not reported them missing yet.
In a letter to his parents, one of the men said he was embarking on Allah’s task.
“Our investigations have been on for a while. A lot of evidence has been collected and we are studying all this to investigate how these young men were indoctrinated and who funded their trip,” a top official of Maharashtra’s Anti-Terrorism Squad said.
Aarif’s father Ejaz Majeed has denied reports that his son joined the ISIS, or Islamic State, which has captured large parts of Iraq and Syria and declared a Muslim “caliphate”.
Police sources say a letter intercepted by the anti-terror police indicated that the young man has joined the militants. Mr. Majeed called it “completely false.” He said his son “told me he has gone on pilgrimage and will look for a job in Iraq. I asked him to come back and he said he will return soon.”
Intelligence agencies say they are keeping a close watch on 18 young men from across the country.