The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has named a dentist and a computer applications specialist as key persons involved in sending a group of six to seven youths from Bengaluru to Syria in the 2013-14 period to join the Islamic State.
The NIA registered its case on September 19 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA and named dentist Muhammad Tauqir Mahmood (29) and computer applications specialist Zuhaib Hameed alias Shakeel Manna (28), both of whom earlier lived in Bengaluru but are currently reportedly based in Saudi Arabia.
The two are alleged to have built contacts with IS through a schoolmate from Saudi Arabia — where Tauqir and another NIA suspect, Shihab, studied during their school years.
The existence of the group who travelled to Syria came to light after the August 17 arrest of Abdur Rahman, a 28-year-old ophthalmologist from Bengaluru, on charges of conspiring with a Kashmiri man arrested in Delhi in March, for alleged links to an Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP) unit in India. The agency’s investigation of Abdur Rahman revealed that he had travelled to Syria in 2013-14 with the assistance of Tauqir and Hameed.
As part of its investigations, the NIA on October 7 arrested business analyst Ahamed Abdul Cader (40) from Chennai and rice merchant Irfan Nasir (33) in Bengaluru for allegedly funding “the Bengaluru-based ISIS module”.
“Accused Ahamed Abdul Cader, Irfan Nasir and their associates played a very significant role in radicalization of the members of the group and arranged funds through donations and own sources for visit of accused Abdur Rahman and other Muslim youth of Bengaluru to Syria to join ISIS. Two of such youth got killed in Syria,” the NIA said after the October 7 arrests.
The two killed in Syria have been identified as Faiz Masood, an MBA degree-holder, and Abdul Subhan, who was working in Yemen before joining IS.
Investigations by the NIA and other agencies have revealed that an orthopaedic doctor and an aeronautical engineer were among the youths who travelled to Syria in 2013-14. Both are reported to have returned to India within a short span of their stay in Syria after witnessing heavy violence at close quarters.
A senior police officer said, “There seem to have been many youths who travelled from Bengaluru to Syria at the time. Some returned to India after short visits while some seem to have died there. The identities of all those who went are being unearthed now.”
Investigations since the arrest of Abdur Rahman and the questioning of two of his associates who travelled to Syria have revealed that they met Masood, one of the youths killed, in a town called Atme when they crossed over from Turkey in 2013.
The fitness industry has changed, and Peloton (PTON) stands to reap the benefits. Truist Securities’ Youssef Squali recently surveyed 1,500 consumers to gain insights on exercise habits and related preferences, with the findings only reaffirming the analyst’s confidence in PTON.
Throughout most of the U.S., gyms have reopened, but consumers aren’t hitting the locker room. Still nervous about going back to fitness centers, only 45% of respondents have been to a gym or an exercise class since the onset of the pandemic. Additionally, 33% are visiting the gym less frequently than before COVID-19.
Going forward, most survey participants noted that their longer-term exercise plans will incorporate a larger at-home component. Nearly 60% of gym-goers plan to cancel at least one gym membership as a result of COVID, including 33% who have already done so, while 55% plan to exercise at home more often even if a vaccine is widely-available.
Calling the number of gym-goers that have already canceled at least one membership “striking,” Squali thinks it could “portend greater pressure for gyms ahead.”
Expounding on this, the analyst stated, “This also suggests that the shift towards at-home fitness is likely to continue into 2021 and beyond. We believe many gym-goers, when faced with the reality of not being able to visit their fitness centers for an indefinite amount of time, have experienced and warmed to the benefits of working out from home (convenience, cost, time savings, etc.). We anticipate that this dynamic will outlive COVID.” To this end, Squali sees this trend as a tailwind for PTON.
Of the 1,169 respondents who worked out at least once a month, 54% made a fitness equipment or services related purchase for home use. It should be noted that out of this group, 40% had no plans to make an at-home fitness-related purchase before the pandemic.
“We believe this is a trend that helped drive better than expected earnings these last few quarters for Peloton. This also supports Peloton’s thesis that its serviceable addressable market (SAM) has expanded beyond its initial 14 million estimate to 20 million, as consumers who may not have considered purchasing at-home equipment previously are now a growing base of customers… With a very strong NPS, expanding product line and geographies, and continued brand marketing pushes, we believe that the TAM/SAM opportunities are likely to continue to expand over time,” Squali explained.
What’s more, Peloton was cited as the top brand that consumers would buy. “This speaks to the strength of the Peloton brand among younger, less affluent consumers, and runs contrary to the thesis held by some that that Peloton remains an exclusive brand and therefore targeting a niche segment (see page 3/4 for figures),” in Squali’s opinion.
As bikes are gaining share in the at-home exercise equipment market and PTON’s lower-priced products are attracting major interest, Squali remains on board this fitness train.
Accordingly, Squali reiterated a Buy rating. He also bumped up the price target from $115 to $144. This target puts