NIA Terms Academic Blog ‘Jihadology’ a ‘Jihadi Website’

The agency has said that the blog, which collects and analyses communications from terror organisations, was used to encourage a young man from West Bengal to join ISIS.

Representative image. Credit: PTI

Representative image. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) believes that a US-based blog that collects and analyses communications from terror organisations and is used extensively for academic research was one of several “jihadi sites” that was used to radicalise a young person from West Bengal and encourage him to become an ISIS member.

On Monday, NIA issued a press release on the chargesheet filed against Md Mosiuddin, a resident of Birbhum, who was arrested in July for joining ISIS.

The release said that Mosiuddin was radicalised through links sent by another Indian Mujahideen operative from “jihadi websites” – which as per the NIA includes not just original material posted by terror groups, but an academic website which archives them for research.

“The accused got in touch with Shafi Armar, (an IM operative who later joined ISIS) through the Facebook and subsequently, through Skype, who radicalized him by sending the links of jihadi sites like Jihadology.net, Al-Shabab media and Just-Paste-it links, etc., and by sending videos released by the Ansar Ut Tawid (AuT), consisting of footages of war between the cadres of the ISIS and the Iraqi forces, and videos and speeches of “Anwar ul Awlaki” about the ideology of Jihad,” said the press release.

The actual chargesheet does not use the word ‘jihadi”, but rather terms all these websites as “Islamic sites”.

Jihadology.net is the “personal project” of Aaron Zelin, a doctoral researcher at King’s College, London, who is also the Richard Borrow Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Sami David Fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence.

The disclaimer on the widely-cited website states that the “blog is for academic purposes only and it does not endorse any of the jihadist material that is posted on it”.

This is not the first time that Jihadology has featured on an NIA document. Last week, the blog was also mentioned in the chargesheet against eight ISIS members. It said that videos on Jihadology were a source of information and radicalisation for the leader of the Hyderabad group.

The blog was blocked in February this year, before which it was freely available.

India is among a handful of other countries like Pakistan, China, Russia and Turkey which have completely prevented access to this site, Zelin had earlier tweeted.

Apparently, France also has restricted access to certain pages on the blog, based on court orders.

Ajai Sahni, a terror expert who runs the South Asian Terrorism Portal, said that Jihadology was certainly mistakenly categorised by the NIA. “It is certainly not a jihadi website, but posts material from jihadi websites,” noted Sahni, executive director of the Delhi-based think-tank Institute for Conflict Management. “Then we could also be called a Maoist website, as we carry material from Maoist groups”.

Sahni added that perhaps the NIA was trying to make the argument that the intent with which the material was accessed and downloaded was not for research purposes but for recruitment and radicalisation.