Tamil Nadu: Family, friends of Ambur youth arrested by IB for ISIS links claim he is innocent

A cousin said Meer Anas Ali is not tech-savvy as is being claimed. Ambur DSP told South First Ali has no criminal record or prior complaints.

ByUmar Sharieef

Published Aug 03, 2022 | 3:00 PMUpdatedAug 03, 2022 | 3:00 PM

Tamil Nadu's Meer Anas Ali arrested by IB for having alleged links with ISIS.

Family members of Meer Anas Ali, 22, a resident of Neelikollai in Ambur town who was arrested for allegedly links with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an Islamist terror organisation, have denied police charges and said he was innocent.

The Intelligence Bureau (IB), on Saturday, July 30, arrested Meer from his house around 4 am with the help of Ambur town police for his alleged links with ISIS.

The officials then seized his mobile phone and a laptop before taking him to the Anaicut police station in Vellore, where he was interrogated for hours.

‘No prior complaints against Ali’

Ambur DSP Saravanan told South First that Ali, a third-year engineering student, has no criminal record, and nor have there been any complaints to the local police about him having links with ISIS or other banned Islamist terror organisations. The local police were initially unaware of the search, he added.

The IB officials took Meer 35 km away to Anaicut police station jurisdiction in Vellore for questioning to avoid any tensions in the area, the DSP said.

A senior police officer said that IB officials, after screening Ali’s social media account on his phone and laptop, confirmed that the Ambur resident had links with ISIS.

“Meer was in contact with the members of the banned Islamist terror organisation through Instagram, Facebook, and Telegram,” the officer added.

‘Not tech savvy’

A cousin of Ali told South First that the engineering student has never been involved in any illegal activity.

“Ali is not as tech-savvy as a few media reports claim. He usually spends quite a long time online as he is reserved. That doesn’t necessarily mean he spent his time online plotting an attack,” the cousin, who did not want to be identified, told South First on Tuesday, 2 August.

Ali is the only son of his parents and lives with his mother. His father, Hidayath Ali, 48, works in Saudi Arabia.

Jamia Masjid Ambur

Jamia Masjid in Ambur, Tamil Nadu. The town has a significant Muslim population (Wikimedia Commons)

Other family members told South First that Ali, who studies engineering in a college in Ranipet, is very calm and has only a few friends. He has harmed nobody, they added.

Sheik Abdullah, 22, a friend of Ali, told South First that the latter stays within his comfort zone and doesn’t unnecessarily involve himself in the personal lives of others.

“I have known him for more than five years and he is a reserved person with very few friends by his side. He has never been involved in any such incident before. The reason why he has been arrested now is unbelievable,” he said.

The local jamaat people also said the same.

Other Muslim youth in Ambur worried

Mansoor, 27, from Neelikollai, Ambur, told South First that Ali’s arrest over alleged ISIS links has come as a great shock.

He said Ali’s arrest was the first in the district for such reasons.

“Though it is unbelievable, the arrest has made other youths and Muslims in the vicinity worry, and they have lost faith in him. But I believe he will be freed of the charges soon,” Mansoor said.

A case against Ali has been lodged by the Ambur Town Police under Sections 121, 122, and 125 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Sections 18, 18A, 20, 38, and 39 of the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act (UAPA). Ali is now in judicial custody.

Two ISIS-related arrests in Tamil Nadu in a week

The IB sleuths arrested Ali two days after the National Investigation Agency (NIA) grilled Asif Muzabdin, 32, from Erode ,on 28 July for having alleged links with ISIS.

Erode SP Sasimohan told South First that the NIA raided Muzabdin’s house in Manickampalayam Housing Unit, a suburb of Erode, and detained him and his friend Yasin, 33, for questioning.

The NIA questioned Muzabdin and his friend for more than 10 hours and screened their mobile phones, laptops, and other documents recovered from them.

A case under Sections 121, 122, and 125 of the Indian Penal Code and 17, 18A, 20, 38, and 39 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 was registered against Muzabdin by the Erode North Police.

The NIA on 31 July conducted search operations at 13 locations in six states — Bhopal and Raisen districts in Madhya Pradesh; Bharuch, Surat, Navsari, and Ahmedabad districts in Gujarat, Araria district in Bihar, Bhatkal and Tumkur districts in Karnataka, Kolhapur and Nanded districts in Maharashtra, and Deoband district in Uttar Pradesh — over links to ISIS.

(Names of Ali’s friend and neighbour changed on request)