A day after it came to light that intelligence agencies in Kolkata had prevented four Hyderabad youths from crossing over to Bangladesh trying to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), police on Friday said more youngsters from the West Benagl capital could be in touch with "recruiters" for the terror outfit, The Times of India reported yesterday.
Top police officers, who attended an emergency security review meeting held with Governor E S L Narasimhan, said the recent al-Qaeda threat video and the startling revelation of the four city youngsters trying to get in touch with a jihadi handler in Bangladesh have made the security agencies jittery.
"It's not just these four, but our investigations have found that there could be more youngsters who are in touch with ISIS handlers and this is a bit of a scary proportion," said a senior police officer.
Last Sunday four youngsters in their early twenties, including two engineering students, were arrested by intelligence agencies in Kolkata while they were allegedly planning to meet an ISIS contact in Dhaka and join the terror outfit. But the Indian agencies said the youngsters did not know anyone who could help them cross the border.
Kolkata police chief Surajit Kar Purkayastha told TOI the city police were not involved in the operation. "It seems Hyderabad police tagged with security agencies and intercepted the youth from Kolkata," a top Kolkata police official said.
During interrogation, the youngsters revealed 11 more youths from Hyderabad could be in touch with ISIS handlers. "We are keeping a watch on the 11 people, all part of a closed group," said an intelligence officer.
The youngsters belong to middle-class families. "They were motivated by extremist propaganda on the social networking sites and decided to join ISIS," said another intelligence official.
According to police, the youngsters initially found some pages on Facebook celebrating ISIS and later became members of certain "closed groups". The administrators of the closed groups take care that no member is identified and people are made members through an encrypted invitation sent to the inbox after background verification.
Motivated by the messages sent by the handler of one such "closed terror group", the youngsters decided to join ISIS and went to Kolkata a week ago without informing their parents. But intelligence agencies, who stumbled upon their communication, intercepted the youngsters and handed them over to their families after counselling by Hyderabad police a few days ago.
"We did not want to arrest the youngsters as they have been brainwashed and lured by extremist elements. We spoke to the family members and advised the parents to keep a watch on their activities," said a senior police officer in Hyderabad. Police said they wanted to take the minority community into confidence by suggesting there would not be unnecessary arrests and police were there to help people.
Narasimhan's meeting was attended by his two advisers, A K Mohanty and A P V N Sarma, Telangana DGP Anurag Sharma, AP intelligence chief A R Anuradha, SIB-cum-counter-intelligence chief V C Sajjanar, Hyderabad police commissioner M Mahender Reddy and Cyberabad police commissioner C V Anand.
The governor convened the meeting in view of the latest threat video released by al-Qaeda chief Ayman Al Zawahri on social networking sites, where he proposed to spread Islamic rule and raise the "flag of jihad" across the Indian subcontinent.
After Al Zawahari's video appeared on the social media, the Intelligence Bureau issued an alert to all the states to step up vigil on suspicious elements. Intelligence sources said dedicated teams were monitoring all suspicious activity, especially those related to al-Qaeda and ISIS on social networking sites.