The National Investigation Agency (NIA), in its surprising investigation, has found that a group of alleged Islamic State (IS) sympathisers, who were planning terror attacks on police stations in Hyderabad, used a host of encrypted applications, including one developed by al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, in order to keep their communication secure.
According to a Hindustan Times report, Al-Fajr Media Center, which distributes al Qaeda’s online propaganda program, released an Android version of its encryption programme called Amn al-Mujahid (security of mujahid) for mobile phones in 2014.
“Two members of the (IS sympathiser) group, Mohammed Ibrahim Yazdani and Abdulla Bin Ahmed al-Amoodi had downloaded Amn al-Mujahid encryption on their mobile phones,” Hindustan Times quoted a NIA chargesheet as saying.
The agency further said that despite downloading the encryption app, the two never discussed their plans on these applications and preferred face-to-face meetings to discuss their targets.
Moreover, the sympathisers also used top applications like ‘Orbot’ and ‘Orfox’, which hide a user’s internet usage by bouncing it through a series of computers around the world.
“We will have to continuously update our knowledge and technology to keep track of the suspect communication,” said an NIA officer.
According to the chargesheet, the two handlers of the group, one of which is suspected to be an Indian named Shafi Armar who is a native of Bhatkal (Karnataka) and a former member of Indian Mujahideen, kept them informed about the latest tools to keep their communication secure. Armar moved to IS-held area in Syria two years back.
It further stated that the IS sympathisers had plans to target policemen and police stations in Hyderabad and used navigation and map application ‘OsmAnd+’ to plot their targets.
One of the group members, Muzaffar Hussain Rizwan, was found with a digital document containing three Global Positioning System coordinates saved in it. These coordinates responded to Kamathipura, Afzalganj and Bahadurpura police stations in Hyderabad when plotted on the Google Maps.
During the interrogation, Rizwan admitted that his task was to survey the police stations.
These coordinates where then sent to the IS handler in Syria using Pidgin application which allows users to log into multiple chat accounts simultaneously.
Besides, the group was also using ‘Chatsecure’ and ‘Trillian’, considered secure chat applications, and Tutanota email that provides end-to-end encryption.