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Bengaluru executive arrested, confesses to operating ISIS Twitter handle: Cops

Bengaluru executive arrested, confesses to operating ISIS Twitter handle: Cops

Bengaluru: In a major breakthrough, the alleged handler of the most influential pro-Islamic State (IS) Twitter account was arrested from an apartment here in the early hours Saturday.

Mehdi Masroor Biswas has "confessed" he was handling the pro-jihad tweeter "@ShamiWitness" and he was particularly close to English-speaking ISIS terrorists, Karnataka DGP L Pachau told reporters here.

An engineer working as "manufacturing executive" with a Bengaluru-based multinational company for an annual package of Rs 5.3 lakh, he became "a source of incitement and information" for the new ISIS recruits, Pachau said.

Biswas, hailing from West Bengal, had admitted to operating "@ShamiWitness" twitter account for the last many years, he said, announcing the breakthrough along with Bengaluru Police Commissioner M N Reddi.

Cases had been registered against Mehdi under various provisions of IPC, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and IT Act, Reddi said.

Pachau said Mehdi had more than 17,000 followers on Twitter and used to "ferociously" tweet by aggregating information and closely watching developments of the region.

The Bengaluru Police had launched a manhunt for Mehdi after Britain's Channel 4 News had aired the report regarding the country's IT capital's link with the Twitter account that is followed by foreign jihadis.

Channel 4 News had said its investigation had revealed that the man operating the account is called Mehdi and he is an executive in Bangalore working for an Indian conglomerate. Mehdi was interested in the Levantine region, also known as Eastern Mediterranean, consisting of Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and part of Southern Turkey from 2003 onwards, Pachau said.

He used to work in the office during daytime and became active on the Internet at nights, he said, adding, he had bought 60 GB Internet connection on monthly basis to read all breaking news on websites relating to ISIS/ISL.
Pachau said through his social media propaganda, Mehdi abetted ISIL in its agenda to wage war against Asiatic powers.

Mehdi was careful in hiding his true identity and was confident that it would never get revealed, the state police chief said. "His identity was exposed by Channel 4 and inputs were passed on to the Indian agencies."

His parents live in West Bengal and he has two elder sisters, Pachau said. His father is a retired employee of the West Bengal State Electricity Board.

The British news broadcaster had not revealed Mehdi's full name as he said his life would be in danger. The account was shut down after the report surfaced.

In its report, 'Channel 4' yesterday said the man operating the account had been able to remain anonymous "until now" and avoiding questions about his role in the Islamic State's propaganda war.

Channel 4 News had said its investigation had, however, revealed that the man operating the account is called Mehdi and he is an executive with an Indian conglomerate in Bengaluru.

"His tweets, written under the name Shami Witness, were seen two million times each month, making him perhaps the most influential Islamic State Twitter account, with over 17,700 followers," it said.

On the basis of "credible intelligence inputs" received by Bengaluru city police about the presence of ISIS Twitter Ideologue @ShamWitness in the city, a special team was formed, Pachau said.

The team was working with help from Internal Security division of Karnataka and arrested the 24-year Mehdi from his one-room rented apartment, he said.

In a brief interview to Channel 4 "Mehdi" had said, "I haven't done anything wrong. I haven't harmed anybody. I haven't broken any law...I haven't raised any war or any violence against the public of India. I haven't waged war against any allies of India."

"....I want to state clearly that I won't resist arrest when the time comes. I don't have any sort of weapons with me," he had said in the two minute 12 second interview which ends abruptly.

The report had quoted the Twitter account operator as saying that he had not joined IS jihadist ranks in Iraq and Syria because his family was financially dependent on him.

The Shami Witness tweets contained jihadist propaganda as well as information for would-be recruits and messages praising fighters who have been killed as martyrs.

The IS militant group has made extensive use of social media for propaganda and recruitment, as well as for disseminating gory execution videos.

This is not the first time that Karnataka has been linked with global terror.

In 2007, London-based Kafeel Ahmed, a doctorate engineering student from the city, drove an explosive laden truck into Glasgow International Airport and died of injuries he received in the attack.

Riaz and Iqbal, brothers from the coastal town of Bhatkal in Karnataka, founded Indian Mujahidden which is blamed for about 21 terror attacks across the country with both remaining elusive.

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