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Crime

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

NCB ‘visits’ SRK, Ananya Pandey’s homes; conducts raids in Andheri

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Ananya-Panday

In a major development, teams of Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) paid a formal ‘visit’ to the residences of Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan in Bandra west, and actress Ananya Panday in Khar west, and raided a location in Andheri on Thursday as part of the ongoing probe into the October 2 luxury cruiser rave party.

“The NCB Mumbai Zonal Unit officials visited ‘Mannat’, the residence of Aryan Khan in connection with the (Cr.94/21 case) for seeking certain material related to the investigation of the case from Shah Rukh Khan, by following due procedure of notice, etc.,” said NCB Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede in a statement later.

He also dismissed reports in sections of the media dubbing the NCB trip to the superstar’s sea-facing bungalow as a ‘raid’.

The development, which grabbed national attention, came shortly after the Bombay High Court this morning decided to take up his son Aryan Khan’s bail plea on next Tuesday, October 26.

Simultaneously, Ananya Panday — daughter of Bollywood actor Chunky Panday and granddaughter of the renowned heart surgeon, the late Dr. Sharad Panday — has been summoned to the NCB offices this day for the probe and the actress.

The NCB has claimed that her name apparently figures in some WhatsApp chats of Aryan Khan recovered by the agency, along with others.

As part of its probe into the cruise ship party raids, the NCB has arrested a total of 20 persons so far, and more arrests are not ruled out.

It may be recalled that Nationalist Congress Party National Spokesperson and Minister Nawab Malik had last week claimed that among various Bollywood bigwigs targeted, Shah Rukh Khan was also on the radar of the central probe agency with sleuths keeping a watch on ‘Mannat’ in recent weeks.

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Crime

NCB drugs case: No bail for Aryan Khan, 2 others

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 Mumbai Special NDPS Court on Wednesday rejected the bail plea of Aryan Khan, the son of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan.

The court also declined the bail applications of Arbaaz Merchant and Munmun Dhamecha, the two accused in the same case.

Khan’s lawyer said that though the detailed order of Special Judge V.V. Patil is awaited, they plan to “appeal to the Bombay High Court today or tomorrow seeking bail”.

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Crime

All eyes on Mumbai special court, suspense over bail or jail for Aryan

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 The Special NDPS Court in Mumbai is the focus of national attention as the bail plea of Aryan Khan — son of Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan — and 7 other youths come up for hearing later on Wednesday.

The arguments in the bail pleas of Aryan Khan, Arbaaz Merchant and Munmun Dhamecha were completed last week and Special NDPS Judge V.V. Patil had deferred the verdict till Wednesday, but the hearing of the remaining accused is pending.

The hearing comes under the backdrop of a senior Shiv Sena leader Kishore Tiwari filing a plea before the Supreme Court Chief Justice N.V. Ramana demanding a high-level probe into the affairs of Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) and the ‘violation of Aryan Khan’s fundamental rights’.

Meanwhile, the NCB has reportedly found the mention of a heroine in one of the WhatsApp chats of Aryan — who has been inside the lockup or custody for 19 nights continuously since his detention on October 2 and arrest on October 3.

The NCB has reportedly counselled him and other co-accused, offered them their religious holy books like Bhagwad Gita, Quran or Bible, Aryan reportedly is full of remorse and has promised to ‘reform’ himself after release.

However, Nationalist Congress Party National Spokesperson and Minister Nawab Malik has challenged these claims and demanded the NCB should release videos of the purported counselling sessions instead of indulging in selective leaks.

In one of the most high-profile operations, Aryan Khan, along with 7 others was caught when the NCB team led by Mumbai Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede swooped on an alleged rave party aboard a cruise ship on October 2 evening.

During subsequent investigations, another 12 persons, including a foreigner have been nabbed in the same case, while some others have been raided or questioned.

Simultaneously, fingers have been raised at the NCB’s style of working, the involvement of a fugitive and a politician, friends of the sleuths as ‘independent witnesses’, capped by the unprecedented plea to the CJI seeking a probe into the central narcotics agency’s alleged ‘mala fide doings’.

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