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Bengaluru man behind pro-Islamic State tweets arrested

15 December 2014

The Bengaluru-based man, Mehdi Mehboob Biswas, who allegedly operated Islamic State's most influential Twitter account, has been arrested.

Speaking to media, the Bengaluru Police on Sunday confirmed that the Bengaluru executive, who worked for a food chain in the city, confessed that he was the operator of the pro-Islamic State Twitter account @ShamiWitness. The man tweeted about Islamic State and confessed to the police that he even helped in recruiting for the terror group.

Mehdi admitted that he was operating the Twitter account for Islamic State since 2001, the police said. A case has been registered against him under the Information Technology Act.

The Bengaluru executive reportedly did extensive research to post on Twitter although most of his tweets have been deleted. So far, intelligence agencies have not found any anti-India activity or tweets posted by Mehdi. Nothing has been found to infer Mehdi suggested any attacks in India.

Although no direct link has been established between @ShamiWitness and Islamic State, home ministry officials in Delhi said that National Investigation Agency have been told to investigate the matter. The police said it looks more like a case of 'self-radicalisation.'

On Friday, India woke up to the news that the biggest recruiter for the terrorist group - Islamic State - might be sitting in Bengaluru and operating via the social networking site Twitter (See: Top Islamic State recruiter Bangaluru-based, British TV reveals).

In an exclusive report, UK's Channel4 on Wednesday night identified the Bengaluru-based executive as Mehdi Mehboob Biswas. The report claimed to have tracked down the person behind the Twitter account @ShamiWitness, which with over 17,000 followers, was reportedly one of the most influential global voices for the Islamic State.

Claiming that they got in touch with Mehdi over phone, The Indian Express reported that the accused was afraid that the police might manhandle him. Speaking to IE, Mehdi said, "When Channel 4 called me first and asked if @ShamiWitness was my Twitter handle, I did not oppose it my outright rejection would not have convinced them. I therefore decided to admit that I was indeed @ShamiWitness in the hope that they would not air the programme."

On Saturday though, quoting sources, Hindustan Times reported that the executive has now denied that he is the man behind @ShamiWitness and he admitted to the allegations to get the reporter off his back. With his alleged cover blown, Mehdi now fears for his life, the HT report added.

According to a report in the CNN IBN, Mehdi clarified himself, saying that he never intended to wage a war against India and that he will not resist arrest when police come knocking on his door.

"I have a suspicion that the police, when they come to arrest me, might try to kill me. I want to state clearly that I won't resist arrest. I haven't done anything wrong. I haven't harmed anybody. I haven't raised any war or any violence against India. I just said stuff, people followed me. I only knew what the IS sympathisers said in public tweets."

Quoting sources, CNN IBN report added that intelligence agencies were guided towards Mehdi by Areef Majeed, the boy from Kalyan who came back to India after fighting for the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Majeed was following @ShamiWitness, he told the officials.

UK's Channel4 in an exclusive had said that given Mehdi's activities online, he reportedly was in touch with foreign jihadis, praising dead extremists as martyrs and urged people to follow other IS voices on the micro-blogging site. These tweets were retweeted and reposted several times and seen by millions until the account was closed following the Channel4 report.

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