Islamic State group’s operative from Tamil Nadu Subahani Haja Moideen , who fought alongside IS fighters in Iraq, has disclosed that one of the attackers in the Paris strikes last year , which left around 130 people dead, was his “group leader”.
Moideen, labelled the most “battle-hardened” IS recruit from India so far, had travelled from Chennai to Istanbul on April 8, 2015 and then to Syria with a batch of foreign jihadis from Pakistan, Afghanistan and other countries.
“Moideen said during the time he crossed over to Iraq from Turkey and his training, in which he was given religious lessons, taught use of AK-47, grenade launchers, bomb making and use of machetes, one of the Paris attackers/conspirators was the in charge of the group,” an official in the security establishment said.
The 31-year-old, arrested by the NIA earlier this month, took the names of the mastermind of the Paris attack – Belgian national Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who was later killed by French police – and Abaaoud’s childhood friend and co-accused in the attacks Salah Abdeslam and Omar Ismail Mostefei. Abdeslam was caught by French authorities in Molenbeek, Belgium, in March.
Sources refused to elaborate who among Abaaoud, Abdeslam and Mostefei was Moideen’s “group leader”. “He might be lying. That’s why we want to question him at length and get more details,” said an officer.
The NIA is learnt to have informed the French authorities and their embassy in New Delhi about the recent development. French investigators are likely to question Moideen.
Moideen returned to India on September 22, 2015 via Turkey after a knee injury in Mosul. He didn’t come under the radar of Indian agencies till a few months ago. According to officials, Moideen said he followed the news of Paris attacks upon his return to India and was surprised to know that his “group leader” was also involved. However, he claimed that he had no inkling about the Paris attack plans.
The NIA suspects that Moideen could be part of a “sleeper cell”. It does not believe his theory and thinks he came here to stay low till further orders. Recently, it emerged that he was planning to attack RSS leaders and Kerala HC judges.
In all, nine IS members, including Abaaoud, Mostefei, Chakib Akrouh, Brahim Abdeslam (Salah Abdeslam’s elder brother), Samy Amimour, Foued Mohamed Aggad, Bilal Hadfi, Ahmed Al Mohammed and M Al Mahmod, were involved in coordinated attacks at Stade de France, Bataclan theatre and restaurants and pubs in Paris on November 13, 2015, killing 130 people.