Islamic State group active in southern Indian states, including via the 'love jihad'
by Biju Veticad

Nine Al Qaeda members were arrested this morning, three in Kerala. Islamic State cells are present in Karnataka, Telegana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Jammu-Kashmir. At least 21 Christian girls and young women have been caught up in IS’s “love jihad": after falling in love and converting to Islam, they engage in active terrorism.

Ernakulam (AsiaNews) – The Islamic State (IS) group[*] is present in many southern Indian states. Their terrorist methods worry the country's secret services; their "love jihad" methods – making Christian girls and young women fall in love with their members, convert them to Islam and make them active terrorists – worry the Churches, especially the Syro-Malabar Church.

Just this morning, India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested nine members of Al Qaeda, all hailing from West Bengal (some pictured). Six were caught in a coordinated raid in Murshidabad (West Bengal); the other three were arrested in Perumbavoor, Ernakulam district (Kerala).

Three days ago, speaking before Parliament in Delhi, India’s Home Affairs Ministry highlighted the active involvement of IS members in southern India states, including Kerala and Karnataka.

State security agencies confirm that many people have joined the group in states like Kerala, Karnataka, Telegana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Jammu- Kashmir.

The NIA reported 17 cases involving IS members in Telegana, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. In all, NIA arrested 122 people.

Last January, during the first session of the 28th Synod of the Syro-Malabar Church, the bishops sparked a major controversy among government members, noting that IS terrorists had targeted Christian girls and young women via the “love jihad,” with 21 joining the terrorist group according to Kerala police.

The bishops warned the population, especially Christian families in southern India about the "love jihad". By contrast, the Kerala government downplayed the danger, going so far as to deny that it existed at all.

“Citing detailed studies, the Catholic bishops and some related associations have informed the state and the central government about the presence of IS in India,” said Stephen Thomas, director of the Kerala Catholic Youth Movement (KCYM), speaking to AsiaNews.

“These people and groups are dedicated to attracting youth to terrorism, making plans and executing them. They use social media and other means to instruct and train young people. Parents are helpless since this is going on in peer groups at school or university.”

A recently released UN report on terrorism indicates that a significant number of people, around 150-200, have joined IS in southern India states, especially Kerala and Karnataka.

Unemployment is helping IS fill its ranks, but so do social media with some sites gradually drawing young people into the terrorist web, to the point that some are willing to carry out terrorist actions.

However, Islam too is a victim, Khaleel A, a Muslim man from Alappuzha (Kerala), told AsiaNews.

“Islam as a whole is negatively affected by these reports,” he explained. “Those people who support terrorism are not Muslims. Islam is a religion that defends universal brotherhood, not terrorism. Our religion does not support terrorism.”

[*] Formerly known as the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS) and Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIL).