India today announced a ban on the terrorist outfit Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), days after a Bangalore-based engineer was detained for running a popular Twitter account that praised the militant group's activities (See: Bengaluru man behind pro-Islamic State tweets arrested).
India had until now avoided a direct ban on the terror group because of worries over the fate of 39 Indian construction workers missing in Iraq this year, who are believed to be held captive by the Islamic State militants. Moreover the group had not been involved in any activity in this country so far.
Also, intelligence agencies had suggested that a ban would make it difficult to track sympathisers of the group by driving them to covert activity.
Home minister Rajnath Singh told parliament that the government aimed to limit the activities of the group that has annexed vast areas of Iraq and Syria.
"We had taken cognisance of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria activities in other countries," he said. "As a first step we have banned this outfit in India."
While active involvement of Indians in the terror group is limited to a handful like Areeb Majeed, the one who returned from Iraq, the group is getting moral support from active players on the internet, it is feared.
Following the arrest of the Islamic State's Twitter handle Mehdi Masoor Biswas, a 24-year-old executive of ITC Foods, from Bengaluru on Saturday, police have found that the pro-Islamic State Twitter handle @ShamiWitness had 17,800 followers, including hundreds of foreign fighters for the group.
Biswas is reported to have posted over 129,000 tweets over several years and the police is yet to determine whether he was a mere cheerleader or an online recruiter for the group.
"It is true the number of Indians in the group or involved in its activities is only a handful," the home minister said. "But I want to make clear we are taking this seriously."
A ban on the group would make prosecution of suspects easy while it could endanger the lives of 39 men believed to be held by the group since June.