The Kerala Police on Thursday said one of the five suspected Islamic State members arrested in Kannur on Wednesday was a key recruiter for the terrorist group. The police said UK Hamza, a preacher, had been operating from countries in the Gulf since 1998.
“Holding two passports, he visited many countries,” Kannur Deputy Superintendent of Police PP Sadanandan told the Hindustan Times. “He told us he was the cook for a Taliban leader and later switched over to the Islamic State.”
The 52-year-old suspect told the police that he had recruited at least 40 youths to the militant group, of which 15 had died in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan, Sadanandan was quoted as saying.
Hamza had been under police surveillance for the past five months.
On Thursday, the Kerala Police identified another one of the five who were arrested on Wednesday. Manaf Rahman had planned to leave for Syria six months ago after being influenced by Hamza, but the 42-year-old was sent back from the Mangaluru airport based on suspicion, NDTV reported, quoting unidentified police officers.
“We have formed a special team in Kannur to track terror-related modules, including ISIS networks,” Kannur Police Chief G Siva Vikram told the news channel. “We have been in coordination with the National Investigation Agency as well as other state police forces to track the activities and movement of suspects. There are more under our scanner.”
On Wednesday, the Valapattanam Police in Kannur district had arrested Midilaj, Abdul Razk and MV Rashid after they returned from Turkey. The five suspects are being interrogated by a team of police led by Sadanandan.
In July 2016, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the Assembly that 21 Muslim youths from the state had gone missing over a month, and it was suspected that they had joined the extremist group.