Kerala: Operation Pigeon ‘saves’ 350 youths from ISIS

Kerala: Operation Pigeon

Kochi : Days after news of the massive IS recruitment drive from north Kerala’s villages in mid-2016 shocked the state, Kerala police launched a silent but strategic de-radicalisation drive named Operation Pigeon aimed at preventing a repeat of a Padanne-like situation.

What started as a focussed drive in “certain areas” in Kasaragod district, spread across the state with various agencies mining social media to prepare a list of “vulnerable Malayali youth”. The tally at the end of initial online recce came to 350.

All districts except Pathanamthitta reported footprints of recruiters who had “made more than preliminary contacts with them”. The state intelligence sleuths formed a special task force with personnel from NIA and IB. “Kannur district topped with 118 names followed by Malappuram (89) and Kasaragod (66),” a top source told TOI. While Kozhikode had 25 youth with “deep interest”, Palakkad reported 16. “It was single digit for the rest. And there was not even one girl in this list of 350,” he said.

A common factor binding all 350 youth, apart from their rigid religious routine, was their education background. “All are in the twenties. Many are pursuing engineering and medicine. We can’t say even one of them was an illiterate,” DGP B S Mohammed Yasin, head of state intelligence, said while confirming the campaign.

The special team touched base with community elders and parents of these youth as a first step. “The response was very positive. But for their support, we wouldn’t have been possible to roll out this campaign,” he said. The police organised individual and collective counselling sessions for the youth. The sessions were handled by specially-trained personnel from NIA and IB, sources said.

Operation Pigeon’s first phase saw a majority of the youth realising that “the route was not as easy as they were made to believe”. But about 30 youngsters were firm in their commitment. We continue to engage them “without ruffling any feelings”, sources said.

The best part of the campaign, a senior officer said, was that not even one mosque committee or a single parent protested against police’s frequent visits.

Source : The Times of India

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