Pro-ISIS Twitter user arrested in India

A young engineer in southern India has been identified and arrested, as the man behind the pro-Islamic State Twitter account @shamiwitness.  But no evidence has linked him to the militant group's real-life activities.

Aijaz Rahi
Bangalore police's investigating officer Hemant Nimbalkar writes on a photograph of Mehdi Masroor Biswas, in his police headquarters office in Bangalore, India, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014. Police in southern India said Saturday that they have arrested Biswas, a 24-year-old engineer, who has admitted to running a popular pro-Islamic State group Twitter account, but added that he appears to have no direct links to the militant group.

Police in southern India said Saturday that they have arrested a man who has admitted to running a popular pro-Islamic State group Twitter account, but added that he appears to have no direct links to the militant group.

Mehdi Masroor Biswas, a 24-year-old engineer, was being questioned by authorities, Bangalore's top police official, M.N. Reddy, told reporters. He said police have no evidence so far that shows that Biswas had any direct links to militants of the Islamic State or any other radical Muslim extremist group.

"He appears to have been only majorly active in the virtual world," Reddy said.

Britain's Channel 4 on Friday uncovered the identity of the man, who used the Twitter account @shamiwitness.

The account has been deleted, but Channel 4 described Biswas as one of the militant group's most influential Twitter supporters, with 17,000 followers and more than 2 million views each month.

The British channel described the Twitter account as a "leading conduit of information between jihadis, supporters and recruits."

Reddy said that according to the police's current investigation, Biswas "never recruited anyone or facilitated any such activity in India," and had never traveled outside of India.

The Islamic State group, which has seized large parts of Iraq and Syria and declared a self-styled caliphate, or Islamic empire, in areas under its control, embraces social media platforms such as Twitter and YouTube.

Hollywood-style film clips and other elements of its media campaign boost the group's credibility among disaffected but plugged-in young Muslims, and helps it promote its conquests, inspire sympathizers and attract new recruits.

Bangalore police said they had seized Biswas's phone and computer for further investigation.

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