Three young men, all friends, have gone missing from Mumbai's Malwani area in the last two months. Maharashtra's Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) suspects that the youths have left India to join the Islamic State or Isis in Syria.
The three men left their homes saying they would return in a few days. However, when they did not return, their families filed missing complaints with the Malwani police, which informed the ATS.
"The three men from the same neighbourhood are close friends... Their families told us they were planning to leave the country for some time now. They were even saving up to fund their travel," Mid-Day quoted a senior ATS officer as saying.
"The radicalisation and exchange of information was through the Internet. We have confiscated several items from their houses and are investigating," the officer added.
The three youths have been identified as 23-year-old Ayaz Sultan, 25-year-old Wajid Sheikh, and 26-year-old Mohsin Sheikh. Mohsin was an autorickshaw driver, Wajid handled his family business and Ayaz worked at a call centre.
While Wajid and Mohsin left home on 16 December, Sultan left on 30 October. The missing complaints were registered at the Malwani police station.
Sultan's mother Razia told the daily that Sultan had mortgaged their house for Rs 3 lakh to start a business. However, a day later he told her that he had received a job offer from Kuwait and would need to go to Pune regarding the same, Mid-Day reported.
"...the day before he left, he told me he had to go to Pune regarding a job offer in Kuwait. At 5.30 am on October 30, he left home with a bag full of clothes and his passport. I didn't even know he had a passport," his mother said.
Wajid told his family that he was going to Aadhar office, while Mohsin said he had a wedding to attend and would be back in two days.
Wajid's wife told the police that "he started getting swayed by the extremist ideology" and was very vocal about his wish to go to Syria to join the Islamic State.
Meanwhile, an officer told the daily that Mohsin had "a lot of hatred in his mind" and "wanted to do something big for Islam".
Recently, several reports have emerged of Indian citizens, mainly youths, either being detained by security agencies in India or deported from other nations on suspicion that they were Daesh sympathisers.
Just last week, the Maharastra ATS kept a 16-year-old girl from Pune under surveillance after it was revealed that she was planning to join Isis. She was believed to have been radicalised by Mohammed Sirajuddin, an Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) executive, who was arrested by Rajasthan ATS on 11 December over allegations of working with the Isis.
The ATS learnt during the investigations that Sirajuddin radicalised several boys and girls in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh through Facebook and WhatsApp. A Hyderabadi woman in her twenties also came under the scanner after it was revealed that Sirajuddin had radicalised her.
In November this year, Areeb Majid -- a youth from Maharashtra's Kalyan area -- returned to India after fleeing from the Islamic State's clutches. During interrogation, he told the National Investigation Agency (NIA) that the Isis militants use social media to radicalise and recruit youths to join them.
Recently, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar announced that India is ready to fight against Isis, but under United Nation's flag. "We have made it clear that if there is a UN resolution and if there is UN flag and a UN mission, then as per India's policy to operate under UN flag, we will participate," he said.