US agents faked trail to infiltrate as LeT recruits
New York: US intelligence agents laid a cyber trail all the way to a fake terror camp in Pakistan, mastered idioms and style of Islamic terrorists giving a convincing portrayal of jihadis in a bid to infiltrate a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) recruitment ring.
In what seemed to read like a spy-thriller, their strategy led to the arrest of an American teenager, who was at the centre of an alleged conspiracy to recruit fighters for the Pakistan-based LeT, and a suspected co-conspirator, who was stopped on his way to join the terrorist group.
The transcripts of their cyber interactions in court documents give chilling insights into the raging hate of the world of jihadis.
The cases against the two, who were arrested, point to a disturbing trend that with the collapse of the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq, Pakistan-based terror organisations operating against India may become an attractive alternative for aspiring jihadis.
Michael Kyle Sewell, the teenaged recruiter, told Jesus Wilfredo Encarnacion, 29, whom he was guiding that “he should not join the IS because IS had no territory”, instead he suggested the “LeT and the Taliban” as “worth joining”.
The “LeT was a well-funded group in Pakistan operating in Kashmir, Afghanistan and India”, is what he said according to court filings.
Both men were arrested in February and now face trial on terrorism-related charges.
Documents filed in federal courts in two separate cases, one against Sewell in Dallas, and another against Encarnacion in New York, include expletive-filled accounts of interactions between the alleged terrorists and the undercover operatives that give a peek into terrorism networks.
To infiltrate the group, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) operatives, an agent and an employee, took on the persona of jihadists, adopting their terminology and way of communicating, and one of them created a fake trail into Pakistan as if he had joined the LeT there, according to transcripts in an affidavit by counter-terrorism Special Agent Seth Yockel in the New York case.
The document says that the ring they infilitrated was made up of nine people who operated through “a group chat for American Jihadis” on social media.
The FBI agent and the “undercover employee” vouched for each other convincingly in their communications and Sewell told Encarnacion that the employee would help him travel to Pakistan to get terrorist training, according to the affidavit.
At one point, according to the transcripts of interactions, the FBI employee takes a swipe at President Donald Trump to build their terrorist credentials writing, “US all infidels. With the king Trump.”
He also boasts, “We strike heart of India. … You hear Mumbai attack”? – a reference to the 2008 attack that killed 163 people.
The transcripts don’t reveal much about the lives of Sewell and Encarnacion, other than that Encarnacion lived in New York’s Washington Heights neighbourhood and said he was from a family from the Dominican Republic, and Sewell was a native-born American.