A majority of 127 arrested ISIS sympathizers from across India were following speeches of controversial preacher Zakir Naik, NIA investigation has revealed.
Among the 127 arrested in 28 cases since 2014, the highest (33) were arrested from Tamil Nadu followed by 19 from Uttar Pradesh, 17 from Kerala, 14 from Telangana, 12 from Mahrashtra, eight from Karnataka, seven from Delhi, four each from Uttarakhand and West Bengal and three from Jammu and Kashmir, according National Investigation Agency (NIA) data.
The NIA has also arrested two people each from Rajasthan and Gujarat and one each from Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.
In November 2014, the NIA registered the first jihadi terrorism case related to ISIS and courts concerned have announced conviction in three of the cases in which charge sheet has been filed, said the agency.
Sharing data at the NIA's National Conference of chiefs of the Anti-Terrorism Squads (ATS) and Special Task Forces (STF), NIA Inspector General Alok Mittal said the internet is being systematically exploited by the ISIS sympathizers for terrorist purposes.
"The international terrorist organisation has exploited internet in a very organised way for its every terror related activity like radicalisation, training, recruitment, planning and execution," he said.
IG Mittal said it was common in all the modules busted in Hyderabad, Kerala, Tamil Nadhu, Uttar Pradesh or Delhi that the leader of the local outfit was in contact with any "foreign handler" who channelised the module.
"Majority of the arrested people have revealed that they have seen Zakir Naik's videos and some other Islamic preachers who are based in India and outside. But, Zakir Naik's name came into light in every case. So, we filed a case against Naik and his IRF (Islamic Research Foundation) organisation."
As Naik has not been questioned so far in the case because he left India before the NIA took over the case, the officer said an extradition request has been sent to Malaysia, where he is currently residing. "The extradition request is still pending."
Naik is wanted by authorities for alleged money laundering and inciting extremism through hate speeches. His name prominently figured during the Dhaka bomb blasts in July 2016 that killed many. A bomber later confessed that he was influenced by Naik's messages following which he fled India.
The NIA official said that Naik, who used to preach on the now-banned 'Peace TV', has been living in Malaysia for around 3 years in a bid to escape Indian law after cases were filed against him here in the wake of the Dhaka terror attack.
Naik was granted permanent residency in Malaysia following Britain and Canada's refusal to grant him a visa. Naik's IRF had organised 'peace conferences' in Mumbai between 2007 and 2011 in which he attempted to convert people and incite terrorist acts, the NIA has said.
The Islamic preacher had denied the charges in a statement issued in June this year.
About Delhi, National Capital Region (NCR) and Uttar Pradesh's Amroha ISIS case in which 10 people were charge sheeted, IG Mittal said the arms recovered from the possession of the persons indicated that similar Western Uttar Pradesh-based arms racket supplied weapon to these persons and a group in Punjab.
In three ISIS case related to Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the officer said, it has come to light that the arrested persons radicalised after listening the audios and videos of Zahran Hasim, the mastermind of Sri Lanka Easter blast this year.
"The module tried to conduct lone wolf attack or a united effort for the purpose. Many of arrested accused accepted that Hasim's videos available on net was the reason behind their radicalisation."