Among the 600 odd Islamic State fighters and members who have surrendered in Afghanistan over the last 10 days, authorities have identified one woman hailing from Kerala.
According to a report in The Hindu, the woman has been identified as Ayesha, previously known as Sonia Sebastian, a 32-year-old from Kerala. Ayesha is the first wife of deceased mastermind Abdul Rashid Abdulla, who was the main conspirator in the IS recruitment from Kerala. She was identified from among the surrendered fighters, using photographs in the public domain in which she can be seen with a child.
Back in May 2016, Ayesha and Abdul Rashid left to Afghanistan by foot from Iran. Rashid was leading a 21-member group from Kerala to join the IS. In May 2019, Rashid was reportedly killed by US forces in Afghanistan. Rashid and Ayesha had left in 2016 with their two-year-old child. It is unclear what happened to the child.
The mastermind who executed the recruitment, Rashid had successfully converted people from different faiths to Islam and radicalised non-fundamentalist Muslims who joined him and Ayesha in Afghanistanâ€™s Khorasan Province. His wife Sonia, who had been a Christian prior to marriage, is known to have completed her engineering degree in Ernakulam and MBA in Bengaluru.
A resident of Pala, Rashid was a teacher at Peace International School in Kozhikode prior to his departure to Afghanistan in 2016. It is here that he met his second wife, Yasmin Mohammad Shaheed, a 30-year-old hailing from Bihar, who taught English at the school. Apart from the 21-members that Rashid lured, Yasmin had managed to radicalise 15 more youths from Kasaragod who left the district to join ISIS a few months later in 2016.
Even from Afghanistan, Abdul Rashid was active on WhatsApp and Telegram groups, where he reportedly posted audio clips asking more people to join the IS and instigated attacks against Hindu groups.
The recruits from Kerala had joined Rashid in the Khorasan province where they reportedly joined the Wilayat Khorasan, an IS faction in Afghanistan which was formed in 2015. The faction mainly comprised of defectors from Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP).
In March 2018, the NIA special court in Kochi sentences Yasmin to 7 years of imprisonment. This was the first conviction in case connected with the missing youths from Kasaragod. Yasmin along with her 4-year-old son was nabbed by the police in 2016, while they were boarding a flight from Delhi to Kabul. At the time, she had told the police that she was traveling to a place where true Islam is practiced.
The NIAâ€™s chargesheet also accused Yasmin of conspiring with Abdul Rashid to fight against countries which have friendly relations with India. The court after finding the women guilty also slapped her with a fine of Rs 25,000.
In May 2019, Rashid was reportedly killed during random bombings by American troops in Khorasan. The information was confirmed via a telegram chat to an Indian police officer by an IS operative from Khorasan who said that the bombings killed â€˜3 Indian brothers, 2 Indian ladies and 4 kidsâ€™.
The 2017 chargesheet alps accused Sonia Sebastian along with Abdul Rashid of holding secret classes in July 2015. Kasaragod and Padanna in support of jihad and IS. The classes were held in the last month of Ramadan, according to the chargesheet.
While Sonia (Ayesha) has surrendered, there is no news as yet of the child who was seen in photographs with her.