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India

Kerala bishops seek action against terror network

Bishop Vadakumthala warns that UN report is 'a warning for all of us to protect our children and the nation'

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Kerala bishops seek action against terror network

A file image of Kashmiri youths waving Pakistan national flags and Islamic State flags during clashes between protesters and Indian government forces in Srinagar on June 16, 2018. (Photo: Tauseef Mustafa/AFP)

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Catholic bishops in Kerala have warned about the increasing influence of international terrorist outfits such as Islamic State in the southern Indian state.

The bishops' call follows a United Nations report which said there are Islamic State-related terrorists in the southern states of Kerala and Karnataka.

Groups like al-Qaida on the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and Islamic State have a "significant" number of members in the two states, said the report of the UN's analytical support and sanctions monitoring team released on July 25. 

The bishops want to create "greater awareness" among people about the terror outfits and their motives to keep their countrymen, "especially the youth, away from the destructive elements."

Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council made the call at the end of its five-day monsoon gathering on Aug. 8. The online meeting was attended by 47 bishops from all 29 dioceses in the state. The Covid-19 pandemic restrained physical meeting.

The UN report should become "an eye-opener to officials in Kerala state," it said. It wanted them "to take appropriate steps to check the growth of such elements from getting rooted."

According to the UN report, a member state said the Indian unit of Islamic State has 180-200 members and "significant numbers" are from Kerala and Karnataka states.

The bishops' statement said that "people should seriously view the growing influence of terrorism and other divisive forces in society."

The bishops also appealed to the media to play a very active role and not close their eyes towards "this serious problem of terrorism and protecting society."

Earlier warnings ignored

The bishops hinted at the state government ignoring their earlier warnings about terror outfits taking a foothold in the region.

Church officials in Kerala have been vocal about terrorist activities. Since 2009, they have accused the Islamic terror groups of "love jihad," a method of attracting young non-Muslim women to marry, convert to Islam and be used by terror networks.

They cited several cases of missing Hindu and Christian women. Police investigated the cases and in 2012, after two years of investigation, declared them as part of a "concerted campaign" with "no substance."

In January this year, the synod of the Eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Church again sought a probe into alleged incidents of love jihad. 

Father Antony Thalachelloor, a synod official at the time, told UCA News that the Church had recorded more than 40 incidents of love jihad in the state.

The synod's stand is "based on information collected through different sources within and outside" the Church, he said. However, the state ignored the Church's claims.

'A warning for all of us' 

In May 2019, Islamic State's official Amaq News Agency announced the establishment of a new province in India named Wilayah of Hind.

Reports suggest three Indian terrorists from Kerala were among a sizable number of men and women who had traveled to Afghanistan to join Islamic State in 2016.

An Islamic State operative from Kerala, Ijas Kallukettiya Purayil, is on the "most wanted" list of India's National Investigation Agency that probes terror moves and activities.

Media reports say he was part of a 22-member team that operated from Kasargod, a Muslim stronghold district in Kerala.

Bishop Alex Vadakumthala of Kannur said that bishops had taken the "UN report as a warning for all of us to protect our children and the nation."

"Our effort is to ensure peace and harmony in society, and the Islamic terror outfits are a real threat to such efforts," he told UCA News on Aug. 9.

He said the bishops want "everyone including people, media and the government to keep a watch on such elements that are bent upon destroying our peace and harmony."

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