Awarding life imprisonment to the ISIS terrorist Subahani Haja Moideen on Monday, an NIA court in Kochi said: “How easily he deceived the Consul General in Turkey, his dexterity to keep the journey of no return (as he believed then) a secret from all his kin and his foresightedness to use a mobile phone of a particular brand presumably for all his vital communications demonstrate that normal methods of reformation will be ineffective for him.”

Moideen, 35, of Thodupuzha in Idukki, was a member of ISIS’s Omar al-Hindi module, which wanted to carry out terrorist attacks in South India and establish an ISIS unit in Kerala. Six others in the module, which was busted in 2016, were convicted last year; many are absconding.

The court’s observation stemmed from the unusual journey of the young man from a Tamil trading family that came to Kerala decades ago, to a religious fanatic fascinated with ISIS who felt deeply attached to Iraq, and hoped to have relatives there by marriage.

According to the NIA, Moideen left from Chennai in April 2015 and reached Mosul, Iraq via Istanbul with the intention of joining the ISIS’s war in Syria and Iraq.

He was given 25 days’ “religious training” and 21 days’ “weapon training”, which was mainly about dismantling and assembling automatic rifles. As part of physical training, Moideen was asked to do a kicking exercise, in which he was supposed to land on his left foot after completing a kick with his right foot. However, according to his confession, he failed to land properly, felt an “electric shock-like pain” in his left knee, and collapsed on the rough cement floor. His trainers subsequently judged him unfit for active warfare, and put him on guard duty.

One day, while he was on guard duty, a shell killed two fighters, for which Moideen blamed himself. He asked for permission to return home, which was denied — and Moideen was thrown into jail. He was finally left in a street, from where he crossed the border into Turkey. At the Consulate in Istanbul, he lied that he was a tourist who had lost his documents, and that he was with a Sufi group. In September 2015, he returned to India, slipping past security agencies.

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Back in the country, Moideen contacted an ISIS sympathiser, whom he had met on social media. He also procured two fake SIM cards and, according to the NIA, “tried to collect 50 kg each of chlorate, phosphorus, sulphur and aluminium powder, (explosives) which could destruct an area up to 5 km radius”.

Before leaving for Istanbul, Moideen had established contacts in the ISIS in Iraq. The NIA has found he chatted with one Saber Abdulla, with whom he discussed Daesh and Dawlatul Islam, alternative names for ISIS. In May 2014, he discussed the most advanced long-range sniper rifle and, in a chat with someone with the display name “Wa alikm alsalam”, sought advice on reaching Iraq. NIA has seized jackets and sweaters that he used in Iraq from his house in Thodupuzha.

At Thodupuzha, which Moideen left after higher secondary school and where he returned years later as an amateur software professional, a youth who knows his family, said: “We started noticing changes in Moideen around 2013-14. From denim, he started to wear a black turban and a long beard, and go on frequent pilgrimages.’’

The NIA judge observed that “the act of the convict is a blot on the cultural conscience of this state” and “a blow to its pride as one of the most progressive societies in the nation”.