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PFI Had Close Ties With Al Qaeda-Linked Radical Turkish Group Providing Arms To Syrian Jihadis: Officials

PFI Had Close Ties With Al Qaeda-Linked Radical Turkish Group Providing Arms To Syrian Jihadis: Officials

There had been a number of instances of international linkages of PFI with terrorist groups like ISIS, said Union government while banning PFI.

NIA raids Popular Front of India (PFI) over terror funding in Navi Mumbai
NIA raids Popular Front of India (PFI) over terror funding in Navi Mumbai Photo: PTI

The Popular Front of India (PFI) had close links with a radical Turkish organisation that also provides arms to jihadis in Syria, said officials. 

The Narendra Modi's Union government banned PFI under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for five years on Wednesday. The ban came after hundreds of PFI leaders and activists were arrested in multiple rounds of raids across India. The arrested PFI members were accused of terror funding, radicalising people, and waging war against the nation

Officials have said that the radical Turkish organisation that PFI is associated with terrorist group Al Qaeda and supplies arms to jihadis in Syria. The organisation hosted two top PFI leaders in Turkey's capital Istanbul.

The organisation is named Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (Insan Hak ve Hurriyetleri ve Insani Yardim Vakfi in Turkish, commonly known as IHH). It projects itself as a Turkish human rights organisation involved in constructive work benefiting the society. However, investigators have found that it is an Al Qaeda-linked Turkish charity organisation which was accused of smuggling arms to Al Qaeda-affiliated jihadists in Syria in January 2014.

Syria is home to several terrorist organisation such as Al Qaeda and its affiliates and ISIS. Before its last stronghold was defeated in 2019, the ISIS controlled large swathes of land in Syria and Iraq and called it a "Caliphate". 

Leaked emails of Berat Albayrak, a former finance minister of Turkey and the son-in-law of Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, also reportedly implicated the IHH in arming Libyan groups. The IHH has been identified as an organisation that closely works with Turkish intelligence service MIT.

According to a Nordic Monitor report, E M Abdul Rahiman and Professor P Koya, members of the PFI's national executive council, were privately hosted in Istanbul by the IHH. Stockholm-based Nordic Monitor works as an intelligence platform that tracks extremism, radical movements, xenophobia, terrorism, crime and other relevant issues that are critical for the security of the communities. Its main focus is on Turkey.

The meeting of a Turkish intelligence-linked jihadist charity group with an Indian extremist organisation bears significance as Erdogan is trying to reach out to Muslims in Southeast Asia as a global leader of the community. The bonhomie between Turkey and PFI can be assessed by the fact that the organisation had issued a statement endorsing Erdogan after a 2016 coup attempt which was reportedly in fact a false flag orchestrated by Erdogan's intelligence and military chiefs to consolidate Islamists' power in the government and launch a purge of critics from government jobs, officials said.

The Turkish government reciprocated by promoting PFI on state-run Anadolu news agency as a civic and social group "whose members were abused by Indian police". Officials said the PFI appears to be a perfect match for the IHH as both organisations have been advocating for the jihadist ideology.

PFI is similar to Muslim Brotherhood: Officials

The PFI also has uncanny similarity with another global radical group, the Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hasan Al-Banna with the intention to unite the Muslims, overlooking differences for the sake of reaching a "greater goal" of acquiring political power in Egypt and then the rest of the Middle-East, North Africa and other parts of the world.

This principle has been adopted by many organisations globally including the PFI in India, which seeks to unite Muslims ignoring differences while focusing on the "end goal" as they see it, officials said.

This is a tactic of assimilation employed by the thinkers and ideologues of the PFI to infiltrate among moderate Muslims or followers of Sufi to recruit as many youths as it can.

The PFI works for the benefit of their own organisation and not for the 'Ummah'. Its end goal is to achieve political power by creating unrest amongst the masses. 

The PFI has also devised a shrewd strategy to gain the support of the Christians to grab power. To lure the Christians, they used the word "faith" rather than any Muslim word, officials said.

PFI's links with international extremism

The Union government in its notification banning PFI said it has international terrorist linkagse.

The Union Home Ministry said, "There had been a number of instances of international linkages of PFI with Global Terrorist Groups like Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

"There had been a number of instances of international linkages of PFI with Global Terrorist Groups and some activists of the PFI have joined ISIS and participated in terror activities in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of these PFI cadres linked to ISIS have been killed in these conflict theaters and some have been arrested by State Police and Central Agencies and also the PFI has linkages with Jamat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a proscribed terrorist organisation."

In 2016, federal agencies arrested ISIS suspects, some of whom turned out to be PFI members. Later, National Investigation Agency (NIA) also investigated PFI for Easter Day bombings in Sri Lanka in which over 200 people were killed. The ISIS claimed responsibility for the bombings.

In 2020, one of the bombers who attacked a gurdwara in Kabul in Afghanistan was reported to be a PFI member from Kerala. Twenty-five minority Sikhs were killed in the attack.

India Today reported intelligence sources as identifying the bomber, whose photo was published by ISIS, as Muhammad Muhsin of Kerala.

"Kabul gurdwara attacker Mohammed Muhsin, 29, was an active member of the radical Islamic outfit Popular Front of India (PFI) and left for Dubai after being accused in a case of pelting stones at a local temple...The exact details of what transpired are not known, but it was after this incident that Muhsin left for Dubai from where he possibly migrated to the IS camps in eastern Afghanistan," reported India Today.

(With PTI inputs)

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