Evidence mounts of terror recruitment in information technology sector
NEW DELHI: Evidence is mounting that recruiters for Islamist terror groups have targeted the information technology and engineering sectors, in a successful effort to give India’s jihadist movement a quantum jump in skills and ideological focus.
Most of the 15 men arrested in Mumbai on Monday, on charges of participating in the hit-teams which planted explosives in Ahmedabad and Surat, are criminals linked to Pakistan-based ganglord Amir Raza Khan.
But three men in the group were, till their arrest, believed to be model citizens. Key among them is Mohammed Mansoor Asghar Peerbhoy, who worked as a software engineer at multinational Yahoo India.
Peerbhoy, investigators say, sent three Indian Mujahideen manifestos that were e-mailed to the media after the terror group’s bomb attacks in Ahmedabad and New Delhi.
The investigators allege that Peerbhoy was helped by Mobin Kadir Shaikh, who also worked in an information technology firm, and mechanical engineer Asif Bashiruddin Shaikh.White-collar jihadists
With a job that brought in an annual salary of over Rs. 19,00,000 a year, 31-year-old Peerbhoy is as distant as could be imagined from the madrasa-educated, no-prospects jihadist of media caricature.
His father, Asghar Peerbhoy, made a comfortable living as a wholesale fruit supplier for the Army’s Pune-based southern command. His mother recently retired after a distinguished career as teacher in a Pune college.
With its hard-earned money, the Peerbhoy family ensured that the children received the best education and career opportunities possible.
Shahid Peerbhoy, the first-born, went on to become respected doctor, who practises in the United Kingdom. Mohammad Adil Peerbhoy, Peerbhoy’s younger brother, is a successful architect. Pune residents who know the family told The Hindu that it was pious but liberal and had no apparent link with Islamist political groups.
Police say Peerbhoy radicalised himself, not unlike Kafeel Ahmad, the Bangalore resident who became a jihadist while studying for a degree in computational fluid dynamics and died while staging a suicide attack on the Glasgow airport in August 2007.Spiritual experience
In 2004, during the umra pilgrimage to Mecca, Peerbhoy underwent what he described to his friends as a profound spiritual experience. He began to devote a growing amount of time to religious affairs. On one occasion in 2006, he spent 10 entire days sequestered in the local mosque, engaged in meditation on religious affairs. He began to meet religious radicals in Internet chat rooms and in city-based study groups, to explore neoconservative religious traditions like the Jamaat Ahl-e-Hadis. In essence, Peerbhoy rejected the syncretic Islam he had grown up with.Contact with Bhatkal
Around this time, the investigators believe, Peerbhoy first came into contact with mafioso-turned-jihadist Riyaz Bhatkal. Bhatkal, who has so far evaded arrest, is alleged to have commanded a south and west-India based cell of jihadists, recruited by Karachi-based ganglord Amir Raza Khan. Khan, along with the now-jailed mafioso Aftab Ansari, set up the Asif Raza Commando Force, which supplied the Indian Mujahideen the bulk of its operational and logistical resources.
Mushtaq Sadiq Sheikh, who was arrested earlier this month on charges of commanding the Indian Mujahideen’s Azamgarh-based north India operations unit, was also recruited by Khan.
Peerbhoy was not the only successful professional drawn to the jihad. In 1996, top Indian Mujahideen organiser Mohammad Subhan Qureshi, son of working class immigrants to Mumbai, began a successful career as software engineer. But in March 2001, he suddenly resigned a high-paying job at computer major Datamatics, declaring in a letter to the management that he had “decided to devote one complete year to pursue religious and spiritual matters.”
Later, Qureshi was drawn to SIMI and he began a new life as a jihadist. Key SIMI operative Abdul Peedidcal Shibli, who was arrested earlier this year, also left a job in a top software firm to become a jihadist.
In 2006, after a decade of Islamist political activism, Shibli left Tata-Elexi to recruit volunteers for the network of jihadist groups now operating under the Indian Mujahideen label. He, along with Wipro-GE employee Yahya Kamakutty, persuaded dozens of young men to participate in a series of jihad training camps held in Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat last year.
7 months ago