- Intel estimates number of Indians battling it out as foreign fighters in IS territory is between 40 and 50
- Agency fears that upon returning home, they may plan “lone wolf” attacks here
- They may also radicalise other Indian youth using pro-IS propaganda
As Islamic State's (IS) hold over swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria weakens due to international military efforts and the likelihood of its battle-hardened foreign fighters returning to their respective homeland increases, agencies here have warned of a "grave" terror threat from the Indian returnees.
Sources in the intelligence agencies estimate that number of Indians battling it out as foreign fighters in IS territory is between 40 and 50. "As the IS territory shrinks due to pressure from the coalition forces, there is a possibility that these Indian youth may be forced to head back home. Given that these cadres are battletrained, highly-radicalised and willing to go to any lengths to realise the IS goal of a 'borderless Caliphate', they will pose a direct terror threat," said an intelligence officer.
The agencies fear that the "disengaged" foreign fighters hailing from India may, upon returning home, plan "lone wolf" attacks here and also radicalise other Indian youth using pro-IS propaganda.
This, they feel, is far more serious than the current trend of online radicalisation by Syria and Afghanistan-based IS recruiters and handlers, as a direct, personal indoctrination would have far more impact and outreach.
IS propaganda gives its followers two options to wage jihad and realise its ultimate aim of creating a global Caliphate. They can either travel to Iraq, Syria or areas under IS hold in Afghanistan, or indulge in lone-wolf attacks anywhere in the world.
"With the IS territory in Iraq and Syria now shrinking, there is an apprehension that its foreign fighters may head back to their respective countries. They are seen as a potential threat by all these countries, which include India," an intelligence officer pointed out.
Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland, the outgoing commander of the US-led coalition fighting IS, had in August this year told a Pentagon press briefing that the number of IS fighters had fallen as a result of international military efforts against the group, also known as "Daesh".
"We estimate that over the past 11 months we've killed about 25,000 enemy fighters. When you add that to the 20,000 estimated killed prior to our arrival, that's 45,000 enemy taken off the battlefield," MacFarland was quoted as saying.