’66 Indian-origin terrorists operating abroad with IS’: US

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The US State Department has said that sixty six Indian-origin terrorists were operating abroad with the global terrorist organisation Islamic State (IS) which is also present in India, IANS reported.

The number was as of November and none of the foreign terrorist fighters was repatriated to India last year, said the annual Country Reports on Terrorism for 2020 issued by the department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism on Thursday.

“Although ISIS lost its territory in Syria, new branches that surfaced in 2019 in Pakistan and India continued to operate,” the report said, adding that “other IS-affiliated groups claimed responsibility for attacks in the Maldives and Bangladesh in 2020”.

Globally, the tentacles of IS and Al Qaeda have spread leading to a spike in terrorism, according to John Godfrey, the Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism.

“IS’s so-called physical caliphate has crumbled, (but) it remains a determined and dangerous enemy,” he told reporters.

“A particular concern is IS’s increased focus on branches and networks outside of Iraq and Syria,” he said.

Though the other major militant organisation, Al Qaeda, has weakened, its regional affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) “continued to operate from remote locations that have served as safe havens”, the report said.

The report noted Pakistan’s links to ‘terrorism’: “Groups targeting India, including LeT and its affiliated front organisations, and JeM continued to operate from Pakistani territory. Pakistan did not take action against other known militants such as JeM founder and UN-designated terrorist Masood Azhar and 2008 Mumbai attack ‘project manager’ Sajid Mir, both of whom are believed to remain free in Pakistan”.

But it also said that Islamabad had at the same time taken “steps in 2020 to counter terror financing and restrain India-focused militant groups from conducting attacks”.

“Pakistan convicted Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed and four other senior LeT leaders in multiple terrorism financing cases,” it said.

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