The Popular Front of India (PFI) has been extensively using social media for recruiting youths for anti-national activities and one of the modules of the now-banned outfit even had prepared to attack foreigners, especially Jews visiting Vattakkanal, a hill station in Tamil Nadu, officials said.
The now banned Popular Front of India had allegedly conspired to attack high court judges and senior police officers while some incriminating documents seized during raids on the Islamic outfit outlines its 'roadmap' till 2047, according to central and state officials.
The officials also claimed on Thursday that the PFI has been extensively using social media for recruiting youths for anti-national activities and one of its modules even had prepared to attack foreigners, especially Jews visiting Vattakkanal, a tiny hill station in Tamil Nadu.
As authorities sealed offices of the PFI in several states and initiated steps to freeze its funds, the Twitter handle of the Islamic outfit was taken down, a day after the group and its eight associates were banned by the Centre for five years for allegedly having "links" with global terror organisations like the ISIS and trying to spread communal hatred in the country.
"Account Withheld. @PFIOfficial's account has been withheld in India in response to a legal demand," a message in the page read.
Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Vineet Agarwal said that during its recent operation in the state incriminating documents were seized from people arrested for links with the PFI and one of the papers talked about the outfit's 'roadmap' till 2047.
According to the seized document, members of the group were planning targeted killings as part of their agenda, Agarwal, Additional Director General of Police, said without elaborating.
The ATS also confiscated some gadgets from the accused persons and the anti-terror agency was in the process of retrieving data from them, he told PTI in Mumbai.
Several state governments also issued orders to implement the Centre's ban on the PFI and its associates and delegated powers to the district collectors and police commissioners in the respective states. A strict watch was also kept on its cadres.
In Tamil Nadu, Police said they received a letter threatening to hurl petrol bombs at 16 places in Pollachi town, near Coimbatore, after which security was beefed up in the area.
According to the Coimbatore police, they received a letter sent by post to a police station saying: "We are not against the police, but want to create law and order problem." The letter was sent allegedly in the name of the the PFI and the SDPI, the political wing of the Islamic outfit, the police said.
According to an investigation carried out by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), a module comprising about 15 youths and their associates from southern states, mostly PFI members or those attracted to the global terror group ISIS, had conspired to attack high court judges, senior police officers and Muslims belonging to Ahmediya sect with the intention of committing terror acts within India, officials said.
The module had allegedly entered into a criminal conspiracy to wage a war against the government by collecting explosives and other offensive materials to target important persons and places of public importance, they added.
The module -- Ansar-ul-Khilafa Kerala - had also indulged in a secret campaign of recruiting, motivating and radicalizing Muslim youths to join ISIS/ISIL, they said, adding the associates used various internet based platforms (both surface and deep web) for propagating ISIS ideology.
Active surveillance mounted by the investigators helped trace five suspects namely Manseed, Swalith Mohammed, Rashid Ali Safvan and Jasim NK, and they were arrested from Kannur district in Kerala on October 2, 2016 while they were holding a conspiracy meeting as part of their preparation to allegedly wage a war against the government.
Later, searches were conducted at the residence of the accused and materials, including digital devices and documents, were seized. Custodial interrogation revealed that the accused had communicated with co-conspirators within and outside India over social media platforms like Facebook, Telegram, etc to allegedly wage a war against the government, the officials said.
The accused had conspired and propagated ISIS ideology directly and through social media and recruiting members for anti-national activities. They had created various Telegram groups like 'The Gate', 'Bab Al Noor', 'Play Ground', etc, the officials added.
Investigations established that the accused had knowingly and intentionally conspired and conducted preparations to attack foreigners, especially Jews visiting Vattakkanal near Kodaikanal, prominent political leaders at Kozhikode in Kerala and a programme of Jamaat-e-Islami at Kochi, they said.