news Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 05:30

The News Minute| December 13, 2014| Updated 5.00 pm IST

With the exact nature of his involvement with the ISIS still relatively murky, the Benguluru police had earlier today, arrested the 24-year-old Mehdi Mansoor Biswas. 

He is the man allegedly believed to be behind the pro-Islamic State Twitter account shamiwitness.

A report by Channel 4 News on Thursday stated that Shami Witness, 'the most influential pro-Islamic State Twitter account to be followed by foreign jihadis', was shut down after the channel revealed the identity of the account user. 

"He certainly was a cheerleader for ISIS. His status as a 'recruiter' is more debatable. Is there a definite case of someone having gone to join ISIS because of direct interaction with him? On the other hand, one could frame his status as a 'recruiter' in the sense that his relentless tweeting contributed to a wider atmosphere of online narrative furtherance for ISIS that might provide some of the motivation for someone to join ISIS", Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, a researcher of Jihadi groups, told the News Minute

The report stated that 'the man operating the account is called Mehdi and he is an executive in Bangalore working for an Indian conglomerate.' However, Channel 4 did not reveal his full name 'as he says his life would be in danger if his true identity was made public.'

It was later revealed that Biswas who hails from Kolkata was a manufacturing executive working for a company in Benguluru. 

According to Al-Tamimi, "He was highly influential in the unofficial ISIS support network in the English language medium".

Karnataka DGP Pachau told the media that Biswas had confessed to handling the account and he had a 60 GB connection, used to collate all breaking news in connection with ISIS. 

A case has been filed against Biswas under various sections including Section 125 of the IPC for waging war against any Asiatic country that India has an alliance with.

Though the Benguluru police was caught off guard with the Channel 4 expose, the police say Biswas was no more than a cheerleader. According to the police, Biswas was merely translating material that was already put in Arabic on Twitter and other sites.

But the Benguluru police’s theory that Biswas did not have any direct links with ISIS, but was merely a cheerleader had already been elaborately discussed in a blog written by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi.

Al-Tamimi says Shami emerged on Twitter in the beginning of 2013 and initially ‘he would often try to engage certain, more prominent Twitter users on issues related to the Islamic world,’ Al-Tamimi among them.

According to Al-Tamimi, Biswas had marketed himself as a Liby analyst, and had told Al-Tamimi’s colleague that he was a person of Libyan origin in the UK.


Through the blog, Al-Tamimi traces Shami’s evolution on Twitter, from a standard Islamist to an IS fanboy. 

Al-Tamimi says the only occasion when Shami gave credible information was n early 2013 when he was the first to identify that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had appointed Omar al-Shishani as ISIS’ ‘northern’ amir in Syria.

On being asked if Biswas had any 'insider contacts', Al-Tamimi, said: "I have no idea about that but the information was correct. I stress that this instance was very early on in Shami's tweeting career and any value as an actual source declined over time. He became more and more of an 'aggregator', as I noted".

Why he was not apprehended earlier is something Al-Tamimi isn't sure of either. "My colleague Charlie Winter at Quilliam says it's because Shami did make an effort not to cross lines e.g. only 'retweeting' beheading videos but not tweeting them himself .While it makes sense, I haven't seen all instances so I wouldn't be able to judge for certain. Another view is that perhaps government agencies found him useful as an 'inadvertent honeypot' to track the accounts of would-be recruits reaching out to him via Twitter DM or e-mail asking how to join IS. That is possible too even if it has the air of conspiracy theory", he says.

Shami, has been described on the blog as an ‘aggregator’ of IS content and not an Islamic State source.

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