Russian security services have detained an ISIS terrorist planning an attack in India in response to insult to Prophet Muhammad, according to reports.
The terrorist was planning to attack "one of the representatives of the ruling circles of India", according to Russia's RIA news agency. The ruling circle is an apparent reference to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the party in power at the Centre in India.
RIA further reported that the detained attacker was supposed to fly to India where another person would have met him and would have provided him with the means to carry out the planned attack.
Though the detainee has been detained by the Russians, he is a native of Central Asia, clarified Federal Security Service (FSB) in a statement, the agency that detained the ISIS terrorist.
The terrorist group ISIS and all of its affiliates are banned in India under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act - UAPA.
What we know of the attacker
The RIA quoted FSB as saying that the ISIS terrorist is a native of Central Asia region. He was recruited by the ISIS in Turkey where he was staying during April-June.
The detainee's radicalisation and recruitment was both online and offline, according to RIA. For online purposes, the app Telegram was used and ISIS representatives also held in-person meetings in Turkey's Istanbul.
"As a result, the terrorist swore an oath of allegiance to the Emir of ISIS. After that, he was tasked to leave for the territory of Russia, draw up the necessary documents and fly to India to commit a resonant terrorist act," said the FSB, according to RIA.
Reports have also described the ISIS detainee as a "suicide bomber".
The detainee himself admitted that he had to take revenge "for insulting the prophet", reported RIA. It is an apparent reference to comments by now-suspended BJP functionary Nupur Sharma on Prophet Muhammad, which attracted both national as well as international ire. The ISIS has invoked the alleged disrespect to Prophet earlier too.
A video of the detainee has also surfaced on the internet, but the transcript of the statement is not available.
ISIS, Jihadist backlash to comments on Prophet
The Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), a regional affiliate of ISIS, released a video in June after Nupur Sharma's comments on Prophet Muhammad.
In the video that featured Sharma, the ISKP "threatened to target Hindus to avenge the insult of the Prophet", reported Hindustan Times at the time.
Earlier, terrorist organisation Al Qaeda had also issued similar threats. It threatened suicide attacks in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Mumbai and Delhi to 'fight for the dignity of our Prophet' and in a threat letter, it warned that 'saffron terrorists should now await their end in Delhi and Bombay and in UP and Gujarat', reported Hindustan Times.
Following the ISKP threat, it claimed responsibility for a terrorist attack on a gurdwara in Kabul in which two men were killed. The ISKP had called the attack "an act of support" for the Prophet in a statement on its Amaq propaganda site. It said the attack targeted Hindus and Sikhs and the "apostates" who protected them in "an act of support for the Messenger of Allah".
The ISKP said one of its fighters "penetrated a temple for Hindu and Sikh polytheists" in Kabul, after killing the guard, and opened fire on the worshippers inside with his machine gun and hand grenades.
BJP, RSS leaders in terrorists' crosshairs
This is not the first time that the BJP or Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leaders have appeared to be terrorists' crosshairs. Not only Islamist and jihadist organisations but Khalistani organisations have also conspired to target BJP-RSS and other Hindu organisations' leaders
In 2018, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested 10 ISIS-inspired persons planning to attack senior BJP and RSS persons.
"Ten people were arrested and a huge quantity of arms, including 12 pistols and a country-made rocket launcher, seized. The agency said a pro-Islamic State (IS) terror group, Harkat-ul-Harb-e-Islam, was behind the planned attacks," reported Hindustan Times at the time.
It further reported that NIA carried out the arrests after raiding 17 locations, including in Delhi and Amroha, Lucknow and Meerut in Uttar Pradesh after tracking the group for at least four months.
In 2017, it was reported that Jamaat Ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) was also planning attacks against BJP and RSS leaders. The Sunday Guardian at the time reported that JMB was planning to target RSS and BJP functionaries by exhorting Indian Muslims to take up arms.
The JMB and its affiliates with the names of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen India or Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Hindustan were banned by the Government of India under UAPA in 2019 as these organisations had "committed acts of terrorism, promoted acts of terrorism and have been engaged in radicalisation and recruitment of youth(s) for terrorist activities in India", according to a press release by the Union Home Ministry.
In 2017, Hindu leader Ankit Sharma was killed in Punjab's Ludhiana and Khalistani Liberation Force (KLF) is believed to be behind the attack. There were seven more such killings during 2016-17, according to NIA.
On January 14 2017, two attackers killed Sharma as a part of an organised conspiracy Khalistan Liberation Front, The Tribune quoted NIA spokesperson as saying in January 2021, who added "that the murder was one among eight such cases of serial killings/attempted killings that took place in Punjab in 2016-2017 with a view to create terror and communal disturbance".