“With a job that brought in an annual salary of over Rs. 19,00,000 ($56,000) a year, 31-year-old Peerbhoy is as distant as could be imagined from the madrasa-educated, no-prospects jihadist of media caricature.”
In recent years, the skills of Indian software engineers have been sought by companies worldwide to help advance them in a digital age.
Now, the same Indian IT professionals are being recruited by terrorist cells to be part of a new “media wing” aimed at enhancing their potency through use of the latest technology, say Indian police.
The warning came afer Indian police arrested three software engineers alleged to be part of terror group Islamic Mujahideen, and who allegedly sent emails to media outlets just moments before bomb blasts in Delhi, Ahmedabad and Jaipur that killed 78 people.
The head of the “media terror cell” was named by police as Mohammed Mansoor Peerbhoy, a 31-year-old Yahoo! employee, the Guardian reported.
“The Indian Mujahideen started a media wing with software engineers,” said Rakesh Maria, joint commissioner of Mumbai police.
“They had the technical knowledge to know to send out messages just before the blasts and after the blasts took place.”
Police said the hi-tech unit hacked into unprotected wireless networks in Mumbai and sent emails to Indian media outlets just minutes before the blasts.
“Await, only for 5 minutes, to feel the fear of death,” one of the emails said.
They also claimed responsibility for Indian Mujahideen, and warned Hindus that the “falsehood” of their “dirty mud idols” would not prevent them “from being slaughtered”.
The three programmers were among a total of 15 people arrested by Indian police in the past week.
It was the involvement of programmers – described as “highly qualified, computer-savvy people belonging to good and educated families” – that appeared to have startled many Indians.
For many years, software engineers in India have been highly respected, the qualifications seen as a gateway to well-paid work both overseas and in India’s rapidly growing IT sector.
‘White-collar jihadists, a cause for growing concern’, was the title of an article about the arrests in The Hindu this week.
“With a job that brought in an annual salary of over Rs. 19,00,000 ($56,000) a year, 31-year-old Peerbhoy is as distant as could be imagined from the madrasa-educated, no-prospects jihadist of media caricature,” it said.
The arrested trio were also considered “model citizens” prior to their arrest, it said.
Police said Peerbhoy spoke good English, was as a principal software engineer, lived in Pune – a city in southern India known for its IT companies – and visited the US for work several times, The Guardian said.
But Peerbhoy had “radicalised himself” after a pilgrimage to Mecca in 2004, The Hindu said.