Afsha Jabeen, a key ISIS recruiter, who is currently being interrogated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Hyderabad police, following her deportation from Dubai to India on 11 September, had built up a vast data bank of Indian Muslim youth, many of them working in the Gulf, for possible recruitment. Jabeen, 38, was even successful in motivating around a dozen youth from India to join the ranks of ISIS, the Hyderabad police said after interrogating her for six days. These youth are from Hyderabad and the surrounding districts of Nalgonda and Nizamabad. Some others are from Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Jabeen, who had gathered the email addresses of around 25,000 Muslim youth, reached out to them through Facebook and Twitter, and provoked them with stories on how Islam was under threat all over the world and how an Islamic Caliphate based on the Sharia was the need of the hour.
As per the details submitted by the Hyderabad police before a metropolitan magistrate court in the city on Tuesday, Jabeen opened more than a dozen Facebook pages. She would delete them once they became popular. For instance, her Facebook page “Moderates vs Liberals” had drawn around 25,000 followers. “Who is real Islamist?”, “Daula Islmic” and “Real Jihadi” were her other pages.
“On the surface, her pages contained regular academic discussions. She posed questions like why capitalism under the US failed to wipe out inequalities in the world or why Sunni Muslims were targeted all over. At the same time, however, she was collecting personal emails and mobile numbers so that she could persuade the youth to join ISIS,” said an officer with the airport police station.
Jabeen, who used the pseudonym Nicky Josepha for the clandestine activities she carried out from Abu Dhabi, came under the scanner of the NIA and the Hyderabad police following the arrest of a techie, Mohammad Salman Moiuddin, who was about to go to Turkey from Hyderabad to join the ISIS. After the police detained him at Shamshabad International Airport on 17 January, Salman told them that he was introduced to the ISIS ideology by a woman from the UK, Nicky Josepha. He also showed them his email interactions with Josepha. The NIA and a Special Branch team of the Hyderabad police kept an eye on Josepha’s activities and by April-May, they established that her real name was Afsha Jabeen and that she was from Tolichowk in Hyderabad.
However, the NIA’s request to the UAE to deport Afsha went unanswered until Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the Emirates in August and made a personal request. Following this, the UAE deported her to India for interrogation.
Jabeen was born in Hyderabad in 1977, but her father Abdus Salam, a small-scale businessman, migrated to Abu Dhabi in the early 1990s along with his family. Jabeen returned to the city of her birth to study BCom from the Shadan Women’s Degree College in 1999.
After finishing her degree she married a Hindu man, Devendra Kumar Batra, a resident of Hyderabad’s Himayatnagar. Batra embraced Islam and changed his name to Mohammad Mustafa. The couple has three children who live in Dubai. Sources said that Jabeen shelved her plans of becoming an entrepreneur in order to spread the cause of Islam, which according to her, is under threat from the US and Israel.
So far, three teams of investigators, one from the NIA and two from the Hyderabad police, have quizzed her and are likely to seek a few weeks’ custody so that she can be interrogated about the moles who are recruiting Muslim youth into the ISIS. As of now, she is included as “Accused no. 2” in the case filed against Salman Moiuddin, under the Unlawful Activities (prevention) Act.
An NIA team is trying to gather information about all those who were in touch with Jabeen and Salman Moiuddin. At least 500 Muslim youth from Hyderabad and Karnataka were in touch with them in the last three years.
The Hyderabad police has gathered the details of four or five youth who are suspected to have left for Syria to join the ISIS. The police is trying to bring them back with the help of Jabeen.
The NIA is planning to bring Salman Moiuddin, currently in Chennai, to Hyderabad and question Afsha in his presence. Four other youths from Nalgonda and Hyderabad, who were in touch with Jabeen since 2013 and who also deposited some money in some specific bank accounts to facilitate ISIS work, are likely to be questioned along with her, said sources in the police.
A top police officer handling her case claimed that Jabeen was repenting her decision to work for the ISIS, which she said had deviated from the true spirit of Islam. The officer further said that she was ready to turn approver and confess all her activities in the last four years. “But we are focused on interrogating her,” the officer stressed, requesting anonymity.