Naik man ‘funded IS recruit’s Sri Lanka trip’
MUMBAI: Arshid Qureshi, former employee of televangelist Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) — arrested last month for radicalising youth — funded an alleged Islamic State recruit’s trip to Sri Lanka in January, crime branch officials said.
Officials found out about Qureshi’s involvement in funding Ashfaque Majeed Khan’s visit to Sri Lanka with his wife, while questioning Kerala maulvi Mohammed Haneef. Haneef is in police custody till August 26.
Ashfaque is believed to have left India to join the terrorist organisation in June this year.
Haneef was arrested in Kannur on August 13, under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), after Ashfaque’s father Abdul told the police Haneef, Qureshi and Kalyan resident Rizwan Khan influenced Ashfaque.
Officials said Ashfaque visited Sri Lanka twice before defecting to IS in June.
In January, he told his family he wanted to study the Quran in Sri Lanka, and took his wife with him.
On February 27, Ashfaque and his wife visited Sri Lanka again and stayed there till April.
It was at this point that his family started feeling Ashfaque became more religious, and was creating an unfriendly atmosphere in the house.
“It came to light Ashfaque’s visits to Sri Lanka were sponsored by Qureshi. Ashfaq had told this to his father when he inquired about who would pay for his visit and stay at Sri Lanka. We will get Qureshi’s custody from the Kerala police soon, and will ascertain the extent of his role,” said a senior police officer from the crime branch.
A production warrant has been taken, and a team has reached Kerala.
Abdul’s complaint said Haneef, Qureshi and Khan were responsible for his son Ashfaque getting radicalised and joining the IS with at least 21 other youth from Kerala.
Crime branch sources said they got several leads from probing Haneef.
Officials found Haneef began preaching at 16, at mosques in and around his district. He is beleived to have preached at Andaman and Nicobar Islands a well.
Haneef’s interrogation led the crime branch to believe Ashfaque’s radicalisation began when his cousin Dr Ejaz Rehman, returned to Kerala after doing his MBBS in China.
Ejaz had a practice in Calicut, and visited Ashfaque’s house frequently.
Abdul noticed the two men were behaving in a suspicious manner, which forced him to ask Ashfaque’s brother Ajinas to keep an eye on him, crime branch sources said.
Ejaz and Ashfaque would go to a nearby mosque to meet Haneef, the crime branch said.
Ashfaque also spent time with a group of youth, most of whom were his childhood friends. Sources said Haneef would guide them during their discussions.
Ashfaque formed a group of 11, who stayed in touch through an app called Telegram.
The crime branch is in the process of verifying through Haneef ’s phone if the group was in touch with an IS handler, who officials suspect could be based in Sri Lanka.