Two youths from Kerala are believed to have been killed in US bombings on Afghanistan and Syria, according to information that has reached their families.
One of the two youths, Yahiya alias Bestin, 24, was among the 25 from the state who are believed to have left the country in June last year to live in Islamic State-controlled Nangarhar region in Afghanistan. The youth killed in Syria was identified as Abu Thahir, 25, a native of Palakkad. Intelligence agencies believe Thahir entered the war-torn Syria through Istanbul in September 2014.
Yahiya’s family said information about his death was conveyed by Ashfak Majeed Kallukettiya Purayil, who is believed to be living in Nangarhar with his wife and child and who is among the missing 25, to an activist in Kasaragod via the messaging app Telegram.
Ashfak reportedly told the activist, “Yahiya (Bestin), whom you consider Jew, became a martyr. He was killed in a frontline fight against US forces.’’ Sources said Ashfak did not responded to queries from the activist seeking sought more details about the incident.
Yahiya’s father Vincent said the only information they had was from the message the Kasaragod activist has received. “They left a year ago. In all this time, Bestin called me once. That is all,’’ he said.
Yahiya, a native of Palakkad, had converted from Christianity to Islam before going missing from Kerala last year. He had reportedly gone to Afghanistan along with his wife Mirriam alias Merin, elder brother Isa alias Bexon and his wife Fathima alias Nimisha, a Hindu convert. If confirmed, Yahiya would be the third from among the missing 25 from Kerala to get killed in Afghanistan. Since February this year, two of the group – Hafesudheen and Murshid Muhammed, both from Padanna village in Kasaragod, were reported killed in Afghanistan.
Family sources of Thahir, who is believed to have been killed in Syria, said their relatives in Doha were informed of his death. “They were told by certain people, maybe the handlers, that Thahir died while fighting US forces, sometime in the first week of April,’’ they said.
Thahir, 25, briefly worked with a Muslim daily in Palakkad before moving in 2013 to Doha, Qatar, to work as an accountant.
Thahir didn’t visit his home in Palakkad after that, but was in constant touch with his family until September 2014. His Facebook page was active until November 2015. Thahir has posted pictures of “martyrs”, talks about being a member of the Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian wing of al-Qaeda, quotes verses from religious texts, and appeals to like-minded people to join jehad.
Family sources said they thought “Thahir was as good as dead” the moment they realised that he was fighting for al-Qaeda. “We had no hope about his return. What we feared thing has come true. Two years ago, he had called his mother to tell her that he would not return home. Then he told the mother that he would meet her in heaven,’’ said Thahir’s relative in Palakkad.