NIA raid execution: Islamist PFI in disarray, 106 accused arrested

The National Investigation Agency (NIA)’s simultaneous raids on the PFI-SDPI network in 15 states all over India on Thursday that led to the arrest of 106 accused including Islamist group chairman OMS Salam was a humungous exercise involving coordination between the federal agency, 86 platoons of para-military forces, intelligence agencies, and the state police.

The fact is that the swiftness and radio silence maintained by all those involved caught the accused by total surprise with the leaders of the Islamist group carted to safe locations before their supporters got wind of the entire operation. Given the clout and support of the group in southern states, the entire operation could have turned violent and futile if the raid plans had been leaked in advance.

While all the 300 NIA officers led by senior IPS officers on the ground were briefed in detail by the agency head a day before the raid, last-minute adjustments were made to ensure that the entire operation was clean and without any mishaps. The initial “door knock” time was 4 am on Thursday but was advanced to 3.30 am to increase the surprise element with all the raids being monitored by the minute by the DG NIA and the headquarters.

The multiple raids on the PFI and its political wing SDPI this week were the culmination of a detailed case study, data collection, and collation by the intelligence agencies over the past months. A detailed dossier prepared by Intelligence Bureau was shared with all involved agency heads before the raids were undertaken. The fact is that all concerned agency heads were awake through the night while the raids were conducted and then followed up with directions to legal teams for taking the accused in NIA remand.

The PFI may call itself a socio-religious organization but the Islamist group’s larger aim is no different from the Islamic State—to establish an Islamic Caliphate in India. With a cadre of banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) at its core, the PFI has meticulously spread all over India from Kerala with funds from West Asian countries where the Muslim Brotherhood is a dominant force like Qatar, Kuwait, and Turkey. The organization is known to collect funds through various shell outfits in these countries in the name of spreading Islam. The organization essentially provides an ideological platform to radicalize youth towards political Islam, who in turn take up violent means to achieve their objective by joining jihadist outfits in the Af-Pak region and beyond. A classic example is parts of the banned SIMI cadre morphing into the Indian Mujahideen terrorist group with the support of the Pakistani deep state’s Karachi Project and then targeting the majority population in India.

The September 22 raids and subsequent prosecution of the accused may not wipe out the organization but will act as a deterrent to those planning to join with this group in the future. It will also give a message to other extremists operating in India who weaponize religion for political means. The NIA’s multiple raids on PFI have clearly acted as a major and timely disrupter or else the Islamist organization would have gone out of control and threatened the communal fabric of India.

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