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India's share among ISIL fighters is minuscule. Europe leads the way

Sadiq Naqvi | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:50 IST

The violent ideology of the Islamic State has largely failed to appeal to Indian Muslims, if leaked details of its foreign fighters till end of 2014 are to be believed.

Records of Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, reveal that out of over 4000 fighters analysed, only 1 has been identified as an Indian citizen. Six others are said to be residents of India but their citizenship could not be confirmed. Compare this data with the fact that India has the third largest Muslim population in the world. It accounts for nearly 11% of the total number of Muslims. 

India has 0.01 ISIL fighters per million citizens, according to the report

When you take the number of ISIL fighters per million citizens, India's figure comes out to be a minuscule 0.01. These records are based on documents of foreign fighters entering and leaving between 2013 and end of 2014 in the areas where ISIL is involved in fighting in Syria.

The findings are mentioned in a report titled Caliphates Global Workforce, published recently by the Combating Terrorism Centre at West Bank. The report is based on data analysis of the over 4,000 mostly foreign fighters which was leaked by an Islamic State defector to several news outlets earlier this year. CTC was given the documents by the US based NBC network which is one of the media houses which claimed that they had access to this data.

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The report is curiously silent on the number of US citizens who figure in these records.

What does this mean?

The analysis basically points that Indians did not respond to calls of jihad by the Islamic State. The analysis of the records shows a greater representation from smaller countries like Norway, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago and Benin.

The writers of the report note that examining these figures yields interesting insights. "Saudi Arabia, while accounting for the largest number of records, is not the largest contributor of records on a per capita basis. Depending on the nationality measure used, Tunisia and Kosovo account for a larger number of the records in our database".

The writers also caution that these numbers should not be confused as hard estimates of the overall contribution of fighters to the conflict in Syria from these countries. "As discussed...these numbers are limited to Islamic State fighters and to a specific window of time," the report reads.

Meanwhile, among neighbouring countries, the analysis records 138 fighters with Chinese citizenship, 12 fighters from Pakistan, 3 from Bangladesh and 1 from Sri Lanka.

European countries have among the largest number of individuals who have been lured by the ideology of the ISIL to travel to the war torn Syria and Iraq and fight against the regime forces in it's pursuit to establish a Caliphate. The report says that it found records of 57 individuals who were resident of the UK, 128 from France, 52 from Kosovo and another 80 individuals who were residents of Germany. The report says that 11 individuals with Australian citizenship were also found in the cache.

Children being prepared as fighters?

Interestingly, the analysis of the data by the CTC also confirms that the terror outfit may be grooming children for fighting roles in the future. The records point out that there are almost 400 individuals under the age of 18. Another 41 of them are 15 years or younger.

CTC's analysis has mention of two children, presumably brothers, who arrived in Tal Abyad, Syria on

4 July, 2014, from Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The report says that they were 14 and 12 years old when they arrived, and were listed as primary school students. 

Out of the over 4000 fighters analysed, 400 were found to be below 18 years of age

"Next to both it is annotated that they are children and are going to a camp, and after the camp they are to be returned to their father, who is known to the organization" the report reads.

"In this particular case, the children appear to be preparing for roles as fighters in the future, not the present, although the number of other minors present in the data set reinforce what is already known about the Islamic State's active use of children in violent capacities," the report adds. 

India a target

Interestingly, while these records are confined to the fighters who travelled till 2014, there have been recent instances which show that India now figures as an important target for the terrorist group. A recent interview said to be of the head of the outfit in neighbouring Bangladesh, where several recent attacks have been attributed to the outfit, outlined how the Islamic State now plans to attack India.

While the Home Ministry too recognises the seriousness of the threat and has initiated some anti-radicalisation measures involving members of the community and the clerics, NIA, has also made some arrests of Islamic State suspects.

The agency claimed that most of these individuals were radicalised online by recruiters of the Islamic State, and lured to join the outfit to carry out attacks in the country.

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First published: 19 April 2016, 10:38 IST