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Kerala IS module operatives used Hoop, Rocket Chat for secure communications

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National-Investigation-Agency

The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is probing the Kerala Islamic State (IS) module case, has found that the terror group’s operatives in India were using much more secure messaging applications like Hoop and Rocket Chat for communicating with their handlers and also to share materials to radicalise potential targets for recruitment.

A senior NIA official privy to the investigation said: “In the Kerala IS Module case, we have registered a case against seven known and unknown persons under sections of the Indian Penal Code and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, on March 5 this year pertaining to terrorist activities of one Mohammed Ameen aka Abu Yahya of the state and his associates, who have been allegedly running various IS propaganda channels on different social media platforms for propagating IS ideology and recruiting new members.”

The official said that during the probe it was found that Ameen was using Hoop and Rocket Chat for communicating.

The official said that in the Hoop app, messages shared with another member gets automatically deleted.

Meanwhile in Rocket Chat, a user does not have to verify his/her mobile number or their email id, the NIA official added.

In March this year, the NIA had conducted searches and had arrested three accused persons — Ameen, Rahees Rasheed and Mushab Anwar in this case.

On August 5, the Agency carried out searches at five locations in Jammu and Kashmir and Karnataka and arrested Obaid Hamid of Bemina in Srinagar, Muzammil Hassan Bhat in Bandipora (Kashmir), Ammar Abdul Rahman of Ullal Mangalore and Shankar Venkatesh Perumal aka Ali Muaviya of Bengaluru.

Wani and Beigh were arrested in March 2020, while Rahman was caught in August last year.

Earlier, the NIA during its probe into the IS Iraq and Syria Khorasan Province (ISIS-KP) case had found that the arrested accused Jahanzaib Sami Wani and his wife Hina Bashir Beigh and Bengaluru-based doctor Abdur Rahman aka ‘Dr Brave’ were using Threema, a secure messaging platform.

According to the NIA official, the terrorists were found using Threema application as well as its desktop version because it leaves minimal digital footprint making it almost impossible to be traced back.

“Tracing of the message or call generated from the Threema is tough,” the official pointed out.

Developed in Switzerland, Threema is a paid open-source end-to-end encrypted instant messaging application for iPhone and Android smartphones.

The official said that on Threema like so many other secure applications, a user does not have to enter an email address or phone number to create an account, thus allowing the person to use the service with a very high level of anonymity.

The official said that Threema also hides all the tracks of the user as it minimises the footprint on servers that route traffic.

The official claimed that on Threema the contacts and messages are stored on the user’s device, instead of on the server.

He said that Threema offers text and voice messages, voice and video calls, groups and distribution lists as features in the application, thus allowing the terrorists to remain “untraced”.

The official said besides the mobile application, there is also a browser-based secure desktop chat option of Threema which also does not log IP addresses or metadata of the user.

However, this is not the first time that the NIA has come across the secure messaging platform used by the IS terrorists as well as Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Teiba and Al Qaeda militants.

During the probe into the February 2019 Pulwama terror attack case in which 40 CRPF troopers were killed, the NIA and the other intelligence agencies in their probe had earlier found that Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists were using peer-to-peer software service — YSMS — or a similar mobile application to communicate with their counterparts in India and abroad.

Crime

Mumbai police bust drugs factory in Gujarat, seize Mephedrone worth Rs 1,026 cr

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Drugs

 Notching another big success in 10 days, the Mumbai Police have busted a drugs factory at Ankleshwar in south Gujarat and seized drugs worth Rs 1,026 crore and nabbed one person, as part of an investigation into an ongoing case, officials said here on Tuesday.

Till now, the total seizures in the case — the probe was launched on March 29 with multiple raids in Govandi suburb of Mumbai, Ambernath in Thane and Nalasopara in Palghar, besides Ankleshwar in Gujarat — has touched a staggering Rs 2,435 crore.

In the latest action on August 13, the Anti Narcotics Cell, Worli Unit, seized 513 kg Mephedrone, plus 812 812 kg of white powder and 397 kg of chemicals used to prepare the narcotic drugs, said an official.

The factory raided is situated in the GIDC complex at Panoli in Ankleshwar, and the latest action happened barely 10 days after the previous major drugs haul worth Rs 1,403 crore from Nalasopara town in Palghar district, bordering Gujarat.

So far, seven persons have been arrested in this case, including a woman and a couple of qualified chemists, who allegedly prepared the mixtures of various chemicals to manufacture the final drugs.

Earlier on August 4, the ANC arrested three persons, including two suppliers, from Nalasopara and seized 702 kg of Mephedrone worth Rs 1403.50 crore.

Prior to that on March 29, the ANC had arrested three drug peddlers, including a woman, from Govandi in north-east Mumbai, and raided a premise in Ambernath town, to recover over 3 kg Mephedrone worth more than Rs 4.50 crore.

The sustained interrogation of these six accused led the ANC to make further detentions and the big action ahead of Independence Day in Ankleshwar where the rich haul was seized on Saturday.

The ANC said the drug peddlers, including the woman, are currently in police or judicial custody and further probe is underway.

The teams which cracked one of the biggest narcotics supply rackets comprised Inspector Sandeep Kale, ACP Savlaram Agavale, DCP Datta Nalawade, Additional Police Commissioner Viresh Prabhu, Joint Police Commissioner Suhas Warke and Police Commissioner Vivek Phansalkar, along with the field teams of ANC Worli unit.

The ANC said the woman accused along with the other peddlers kept their identity secret, sought clients on social media and supplied the drugs to them in different parts of Mumbai and its surrounding areas.

Further probe is focused on tracing the source of the drugs, other hidden players and their links with the narcotics mafia.

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Crime

FSSAI assures action against hanging of toilet brushes over pizza dough at Domino’s outlet in B’luru

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 The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) on Tuesday took cognisance of hanging of toilet brushes over pizza dough at a Domino’s outlet in Bengaluru.

The apex food regulator under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said on Tuesday that the response of the FBO has been sought and appropriate action shall be taken in the matter as per the regulatory provisions under the FSS Act, 2006.

On July 24, a person named Sahil Karnany had tweeted some pictures, which showed toilet brushes hanging over pizza dough at a Domino’s outlet in Bengaluru.

“This is how Domino’s India serves us fresh pizza! Very disgusted,” he wrote.

Karnany had also tagged FSSAI, Karnataka Health Minister K. Sudhakar and Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandviya in the post.

On Sunday, Karnany again posted a video showing toilet brushes, clothes used for cleaning tables hanging over pizza dough.

As his posts went viral on social media, Domino’s issued a statement saying strict action has been initiated against the management of the outlet.

The company also said that it adheres to international standards to ensure quality of food and hygiene.

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Crime

Action initiated, says SpiceJet on smoking video inside aircraft

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 Referring to a video making rounds on social media of a passenger smoking onboard a SpiceJet aircraft, the airline on Thursday said that the issue was probed, and necessary action was taken into the matter.

The passenger was put on a No Flying list by the airline for 15 days in February this year, said a SpiceJet spokesperson.

“The matter had been investigated thoroughly in January 2022 when the video was brought to our notice and a complaint had been filed by the airline with the Udyog Vihar police station in Gurugram. The video, the investigation had revealed, was shot on January 20 while passengers were boarding the flight SG 706 scheduled to operate from Dubai to Delhi,” said a SpiceJet spokesperson.

The airline said that the said passenger and his co-passengers shot the video on the 21st row when the cabin crew were occupied with completing the on-boarding procedure.

“None of the passengers or crew was aware of the act. The matter came to the airline’s notice on January 24 through social media posts,” it added.

The matter was referred to the Internal Committee constituted as per the provisions of Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) on handling of unruly passengers (not consisting of any SpiceJet employee). The said passenger was put on a no flying list by the airline for 15 days in February.

Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia on Thursday directed the concerned authorities to probe a person who in violation of rules lit up a cigarette and smoked on an aircraft. Responding to a video on Twitter, Scindia said: “Investigating it. There will be no tolerance towards such hazardous behaviour.”

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