PFI’s alleged links to Turkey and Qatar under investigation

The outfit’s alleged links to extremist elements abroad are being investigated, official says

The outfit’s alleged links to extremist elements abroad are being investigated, official says

Law enforcement is investigating alleged links of the now-banned Popular Front of India (PFI) with extremist elements in Turkey and others who provided financial support to the organization in Qatar to carry out its activities in India.

“In search of funding for their organization, some members of the PFI had already visited Qatar and met some Turkish nationals…there is also information that its national executive board members, EM Rahiman and P Koya, were reportedly hosted in Istanbul by an al-Qaeda-linked charity,” an agency official said.

The official said several people linked to the PFI had also joined ISIS in the past. In a case later picked up by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the Delhi Police Special Cell arrested Mohammed Ismail Mohideen, a resident of Kannur in Kerala, along with another person after he was deported by Turkish authorities in July 2017.

The accused identified himself as Shahjahan VK and revealed that he issued a passport in the name of Ismail Mohideen after he was first expelled from Turkey in February of the same year. Shahjahan reportedly joined the National Democratic Front (the PFI’s predecessor) in 2006. He then came into contact with local PFI leaders and attended their meetings in 2008.

It is alleged that Shameer, then president of the PFI division of Valapattanam, introduced Shahjahan to ISIS ideology and motivated him to travel to Turkey/Syria after the declaration of the Caliphate by Abu Bakar Baghdadi of the Islamic State. Following instructions from Shameer, who was already in Syria, the accused traveled with his wife and two sons to Malaysia in October 2016 and then to Iran.

In Iran, another defendant named Shajil and his family – who had reached there via Mangalore and Dubai – joined them and traveled to Istanbul. In February 2017, some people were trying to cross into Syria when Shahjahan was arrested and deported to India. He then made another failed attempt.

In another ISIS-linked case recorded in December 2017, Kerala Police were told that some young men had migrated to Syria and planned to join ISIS. “Most of the defendants were linked to the PFI. Hamza, a returnee from the Gulf, was the mastermind behind the recruitment of Kerala youths for ISIS. He befriended some PFI supporters, while Sameer provided the plan of action to travel to Syria via different countries,” the official said.

The police then arrested five people, including Hamza. The NIA then resumed the investigation and indicted 17 defendants. In another similar case, two of the 15 accused – Omar Al Hindi alias Muthukka and Safvan – had alleged links to the PFI.