The Centre has been mulling a ban on the Popular Front of India (PFI) for many months now, and in a development that is likely to strengthen the government’s case, three men were arrested in Kannur on Wednesday for alleged ISIS links.
The police arrested Midhilash Munderi, Razaq and Rashid Munderi — all between the ages of 23 and 26 — who have been under surveillance for weeks. They were deported to India by the Turkey police while they were trying to cross the Syria border.
Although Kannur Deputy Superintendent of Police PP Sadanandan confirmed to TNM that Midhilash, Razaq and Rashid are members of PFI, the outfit claims that the three are no longer associated with them.
PFI Kannur district president Noufal told TNM that the three were active members of PFI until two years ago.
"Though once they were active members, in the past three years, their contributions became almost nil. Then two years ago, they went to Dubai for a few months. Although they later returned to Kannur, they never came back to PFI. There was a suspicion that they were linked to the ISIS, so their memberships were nullified," Noufal said.
The police say that they completed a three-month training in Istanbul.
The police have also recorded the arrest of two others, Hamsa and Manaf, on Thursday. They have been in police custody since Wednesday. The police said that the two were Salafi followers, and that Hamsa recruited Muslim youth to ISIS in the Gulf and provided them training in Bahrain.
In the last few months, at least nine PFI members have reportedly joined ISIS.
According to The Times of India, Shajeer Mangalasseri Abdulla, a PFI activist from Kozhikode was killed in Afghanistan. Shajil, Rishal and Shameer, PFI workers from Kannur, are suspected to have been killed in Syria. Manseed and Safwan were arrested by the NIA last year from their hide-out in Kanakamala, Kannur.
Shahjahan VK, an ISIS sympathiser from Kanjirangode, Kannur, who was deported from Turkey when he failed to cross the border to Syria, was arrested in Delhi. He had revealed that 17 fellow Keralites had joined the ISIS since 2016.
Noufal added that the PFI has taken a stand against such terror outfits and have warned its members from cooperating with such people.
When asked about the slew of PFI cadres accused of terror activities, Noufal admitted that Shahjahan and Safwan were active members of the outfit at the time they got arrested.
"But the other 4-5 people were former members and we have no ties with them whatsoever," Noufal said.