Jailed IS members among Indians freed
- The rapid collapse of Ashraf Ghani’s government and surrender by Afghan security forces mean that Indian agencies have no means to confirm the exact location of the jihadis.
A dozen Indians including several women from Kerala, who travelled to Afghanistan to fight for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in 2016, are among hundreds of jihadis freed by Taliban from Kabul’s two prisons, Pul-e-Charkhi and Badam Bagh, according to an initial assessment by Indian counterterrorism and intelligence agencies.
Counterterrorism officials monitoring the situation closely said that with the Taliban now in power in Afghanistan, these highly radicalised men and women, who travelled to the Nangarhar province along with their partners and children to live under the Sharia law, have finally got what they wanted.
The rapid collapse of Ashraf Ghani’s government and surrender by Afghan security forces mean that Indian agencies have no means to confirm the exact location of the jihadis. “There is also a possibility that at some point, they will try to enter India via a third country. We have to maintain a close watch now,” said an officer at of the Indian agencies who spoke on condition of anonymity.
While at least eight people from the Kerala ISIS module, wanted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), are among those released, an estimate suggests that there were around 24-25 Indians lodged in various prisons in Afghanistan. About a dozen of these were lodged at Pul-e-Charkhi and Badam Bagh.
Indian agencies are not clear about the status of the other prisoners.
The Kerala women lodged in the two prisons were questioned by Indian agencies last year.
The National Investigation Agency was supposed to travel to Kabul last year following an attack at a gurdwara on March 25, 2020, in which 27 Sikh devotees including an Indian citizen were killed. However, it was forced to abandon its plan due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The counterterrorism officials believe terrorists such as Aijaz Ahangar will conspire against India with the help of Pakistan’s spy agency ISI while the widows from Kerala might be married off to Taliban fighters.
The biggest threat from India’s point of view, according to the intelligence officers, is Taliban’s deputy leader Sirajuddin Haqqani. He might use Indians for further training to target Indian assets and individuals in Afghanistan.
“It is too early to predict anything right now, but Pakistan will try to use Haqqani network for train and launch terrorists in Afghanistan and then launch them in India,” said a second Indian officer.