Security agencies claim to have identified at least one Indian woman among more than 600 Islamic State fighters and affiliates, who have surrendered before the Afghan authorities over the past 10 days.
A senior official told The Hindu that the woman had been identified as Sonia Sebastian, 32, alias Ayisha, a resident of Kasargod in Kerala. She was among the 21 men and women from Kerala who left India in 2016 in batches to join the Islamic State in Khorasan Province in Afghanistan. They crossed over to Afghanistan on foot from Iran, officials had said.
Mainly comprising defectors from Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP), the Wilayat Khorasan of the Islamic State in Afghanistan came into existence in 2015.
“We have analysed some photographs of the surrendered IS fighters available in the public domain. One of them appears to be Sonia Sebastian. In the photograph she is sitting with a child,” said the official.
Indian authorities are yet to get any official confirmation from their counterparts in Afghanistan.
According to a 2017 chargesheet filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) against two suspects, Sebastian left India on May 31, 2016, with her husband, Abdul Rashid Abdulla, from Mumbai airport.
The NIA alleged that the “the couple held secret classes in support of IS and jihad, as propagated by it, during the last part of Ramadan, sometimes in the month of July, 2015 in Padanna and Kasaragod. The NIA is yet to file a chargesheet against Sebastian.”
“It has also been revealed during investigation that accused Abdul Rashid along with his wife Sonia Sebastian and the majority of the accused in this case, are presently located in IS-controlled territory in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan,” the NIA chargesheet said.
Some residents in Kerala received messages in 2016, 2017 and 2018 that their family members had been killed in drone strikes in Afghanistan. The messages were sent by Ashfaq Majeed, who was part of the group that fled to Afghanistan. Officials said they had no way of checking the authenticity of these messages.
On November 17, a website gandhara.rferl.org quoted Shah Mahmood Miakhel, the Governor of eastern Nangarhar Province, that, “The surrendered people include 225 [male] fighters and 190 women and 200 children.” The Governor added that most of them were Pakistanis.