The suspect behind a pro-Islamic State (IS) Twitter account followed by foreign jihadis might not be based in Bengaluru as claimed by a British media report.
And, he could be using a pseudonym, Mehdi Mehboob Biswas, according to a preliminary assessment by central intelligence agencies.
The claim of a Bengaluru base was made by Channel 4 News. It appears the now defunct twitter handle, @ShamiWitness, had played a significant role in IS’ propaganda.
Earlier, on leaning about the news report, the city police had got into action. “We have asked the crime branch to look into the veracity of the report. Whatever action needs to be taken will be taken,” police commissioner M N Reddi told reporters in Bengaluru.
Reddi added they were in touch with the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Intelligence Bureau for the probe.
Investigators were trying to get details of the said Twitter handle and to authenticate whether the said Mehdi Mehboob Biswas was using his original name or not. “The probability of it being a pseudonym is very high,” official sources said.
Since the NIA is probing the case of Arif Majeed, a youth from the Mumbai suburb of Kalyan, who had gone to be part of the IS and then returned, it will soon start a probe into all claims of the British media report. Arif was following this particular Twitter handle and reportedly confessed to the interrogators that he was influenced by it, the sources said.
“He has until now been able to remain anonymous, avoiding questions about his motives and his central role in IS’ propaganda war but a Channel 4 News investigation can today reveal that the man operating the account is called Mehdi and he is an executive in Bangalore working for an Indian conglomerate,” the Channel 4 report claimed.
The Twitter handle had almost 130,000 tweets, reposted by many and, therefore, seen at least two million times each month. This, perhaps, is the highest by any pro-IS Twitter account. The handle had been taken down by the account owner following the Channel 4 report.
“Two-thirds of all foreign fighters on Twitter followed him. When a fighter’s Twitter account is suspended, he often promoted the new one and urged people to follow it. He spoke to British jihadis regularly, before they lefte to join the IS, after they arrived, and if they died, he praised them as martyrs,” says the news report.
According to it, Mehdi said he would have gone to join IS himself, had his family not been financially dependent on him: “If I had a chance to leave everything and join them, I might have.. my family needs me here.”
However, the report added that his Facebook accounts are a contrast to his Twitter handle. “He regularly shares jokes, funny images and talks about superhero movies, posting pictures of pizza dinners with friends, and Hawaiian parties at work on his Facebook page,” the report added.
Elsewhere on Facebook, there are indications of his Islamist ideology, in conversations about Libya and the Egyptian uprisings.