An ophthalmologist from Bengaluru, who was arrested by the NIA on August 17 for alleged involvement with activities of an Islamic State Khorasan Province unit which operates in parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan, was part of a group of youths from well-off families in Bengaluru who travelled to Syria in the early days of the formation of Islamic State in 2013-14, investigations by agencies have revealed.
Abdur Rahman (28), who was taken to New Delhi on Friday on a transit warrant, was found to have been allegedly backing efforts by an Indian contact to create a software application that would help ISKP cadre in treating illnesses and wounds, and an application for management of weapons, police sources said.
Investigations by the NIA and other agencies have found that Rahman travelled to Syria six years ago with two friends — a doctor and an engineer — when they were all in their early 20s and allegedly enamoured by the then nascent IS in Syria and Iraq.
The two friends were called for investigations in Bengaluru after Rehman’s arrest, and released after they were not found to be involved in illegal activities after their return from Syria in 2013 and 2014.
Police sources said that Rahman and the two others travelled secretly to Syria after reaching Dubai on six-month UAE visas. After their return to India, Rahman and one of the friends obtained medical degrees. The other friend obtained an engineering degree and pursued a law programme.
Rahman is reported to have popped up on the radar of intelligence agencies and the NIA on the basis of analysis of overt and covert communications – including that of Jahanzaib Sami Wani, a Kashmiri man arrested with his wife Hina Basir Beigh in New Delhi in March this year for alleged association with the ISKP. According to sources, Rahman operated on social media with the moniker Dr Brave and efforts were launched to find him after investigations in Delhi and Pune – where two persons were arrested – revealed he was helping in developing applications for the ISKP.
“During interrogation, arrested accused Abdur Rahman confessed that he was conspiring with accused Jahanzaib Sami and other Syria-based ISIS operatives on secure messaging platforms to further ISIS activities,” the NIA said.
Rahman is from a family of doctors. He was practising in an eye clinic run for several years by his father Dr Naseerullah Sharif in west Bengaluru. His older brother Mohammed Sharif is a dentist with a dental clinic.
“My father has been unwell because of all that has happened. We do not want to talk about it,” said Dr Mohammed Sharif at the family’s apartment in south Bengaluru. “They have been here for a long time. They are very decent people. We do not know anything about the allegations against Rahman,” said an optician in the building where the family clinics are located.