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Kerala jihadist believed to have been killed in drone strike in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar district

Family members learned of the death through a Telegram instant message sent to them by another Kerala jihadist living in Nangarhar on Sunday morning.

Written by Praveen Swami , Shaju Philip | Kochi, New Delhi |
Updated: February 26, 2017 7:57:25 pm
 Kerala man killed in Afghanistan, Islamic State, ISIS, Kerala jihadist, drone strike, Afghanistan-ISIS, Nangarhar district, Kasaragod, Kerala, India news, Indian Express Hafesudheen, a resident of Padanna in Kerala’s Kasaragod who turned 24 last year, was part of a group of at least 25 Kerala residents known to have travelled together to Nangarhar. (Photo for representational purpose)

The family of Hafesudheen Theke Koleth, a Kerala resident believed to have left the country to live in Islamic State-controlled territory in Afghanistan’s war-torn Nangarhar district, has received information that he has been killed, police and intelligence sources have told The Indian Express. Family members learned of the death through a Telegram instant message sent to them by another Kerala jihadist living in Nangarhar on Sunday morning.

Hafesudheen, a resident of Padanna in Kerala’s Kasaragod who turned 24 last year, was part of a group of at least 25 Kerala residents known to have travelled together to Nangarhar, telling friends and family that they wished to participate in building what they considered to be a truly Islamic society.

“Alhamdulliah, Kabar adakki [Praise be to God, he has attained martyrdom”, the message read. “We are waiting for our turn… insha’Allah [God willing)”. “Allah has purchased of the believers their lives and their properties: for the price theirs shall be the paradise”, it concludes quoting a passage from the Quran.

The message was sent by one-time hotel manager Ashfak Majeed Kallukettiya Purayil, who is now thought to be in Nangarhar with his wife Shamsiya Kuriya and small child. It said Hafesudheen had been killed in a drone strike.

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Following his arrival in Nangarhar, Hafesudheen had sent a chat message to his family expressing his happiness: “I am now get the jannat [paradise], here no tax, Sharia law, nobody here catching me, very good place.”

He is the first member of the group, which includes four children, known to have been killed.

Indian intelligence and diplomatic sources in Kabul said Nangarhar had seen intense fighting between Afghan forces and the Islamic State and recent weeks, but that they had no confirmation of whether Hafesudheen was among the dead. “Things are very chaotic on the ground”, one intelligence official said. “There’s simply no way of verifying the identities of individual dead”.

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Nangarhar Governor Gulab Mangal said last week that the country’s army had killed at least 34 Islamic State insurgents in air and ground attacks carried out in Nangarhar’s Dih Bala district. The slain, Mangal said, “included several foreigners” Another 17 Afghan soldiers were killed in Islamic State strikes on military check-points.

Last year, Hafesudheen had told his family that he was travelling to Calicut to join a Quran study circle. Two days later, however, he informed them that he was going on to Sri Lanka, to study at a seminary there.

By that time, National Investigations Agency sources say, he had already travelled with the group on a legitimate Indian passport, J0113124, on an Emirates flight from Mumbai to Dubai on June 5, and then on to Iran, and before disappearing into Afghanistan.

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Hafesudheen had been among several of the Kerala Islamic State migrants profiled by The Indian Express earlier this month. In brief phone call to the family, his mother Khadeeja Hakim said, he had promised her they would meet in heaven. “The words get stuck in my throat,” she said, speaking from behind a half-closed door. “I cried when he last called”.

He sent several chat messages afterwards. “Sleep doesn’t help when it’s your soul that’s tired,” one reads.

The young man’s conversations with his, Abdul Hakim, were more troubled. “My own son called me a kafir [unbeliever]. Radicalism changed him completely”, said Abdul Hakim. “”I am an Indian, and I don’t even wish to see my son’s corpse”

Hakim said his son began turning to neo-fundamentalist religious practices two years ago, when he came into contact with engineer-turned-proselytiser Abdul Rashid, the central figure who put together the group that migrated to Kerala. Rashid is also now thought to be in Nangarhar with his second wife, Sonia Sebastian, also known as Ayesha, a recent convert to Islam.

Rashid’s, Yasmeen Mohammad Zahid, was charged by the National Investigations Agency earlier this year, after being arrested while seeking to board a flight to Afghanistan.

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The group includes several highly qualified individuals, who worked as doctors, nurses and engineers—skills some of the circle have told family are now practicing in Nangarhar.

However, one member, Mohammad Marwan, had texted family to say he intended to engage in military training, asserting he he would come back only after he “finishes work with IS to help the persecuted Muslims in Kashmir, Gujarat and Muzaffarnagar”.

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Shihaz Kettiyapuraiyil, and his wife Ajmala, two other members of the group, have had a child while in Afghanistan, as have Ejaz Kettiyapuraiyil, his wife Rahaila, who was three months pregnant when the left the country. Bexin Vincent and his wife have also had a child while in Nangarhar.

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First published on: 26-02-2017 at 05:28:45 pm
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