Kerala physician among 3 Indian Islamic State operatives killed in Afghanistan prison attack
Islamic State operative from Kerala - Dr Ijas Kallukettiya Purayil, included in the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) “most wanted” list - was among three Indian-origin members of the terror group killed in a suicide attack in Afghanistan over the weekend.
According to information and images released by the media arm of Islamic State’s Khorasan unit (ISKP) on Tuesday, Purayil alias Ijas, was among 11 terrorists who attempted to storm a prison at Jalalabad in Nangarhar province where IS prisoners were being held. Ijas was the only Indian attacker whose face was visible in photos released by IS, while the other two Indians were masked.
People familiar with the developments said on condition of anonymity it was believed all three Indian terrorists were from Kerala, from where a sizeable number of men and women had travelled to Afghanistan to join the Islamic State in 2016. Ijas was part of 22-member Kasargod module led by Abdul Rashid Abdulla.
Ijas, seen in a photo standing before the black IS flag and holding an assault rifle, was a physician from Kasargod district in Kerala. According to the NIA’s website, his status is listed as “absconding”.
A charge sheet filed by NIA in 2016 states Ijas was wanted in connection with a case registered in 2016 on charges of criminal conspiracy, commission of unlawful activities, and membership and support to the banned IS. Ijas, his wife Reffeala and their minor child left India via Hyderabad airport in June 2016 to join ISKP in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.
Reffeala is currently in a jail in Kabul’s Badam Bagh prison along with her five year old son who they took with them in 2016 and an infant born in Afghanistan. She was caught along with 24 other Indians among nearly 900 Islamic State fighters in November 2019. Indian intelligence agencies had even questioned her. A NIA team was supposed to go to Kabul to questioned Indians captured there including Reffeala but the trip was delayed in the wake of cancellation of international flights. The agency is now exploring if it can use a special flight to go to Kabul.
NIA officials who didn’t wish to be named said that they also have received report of Ijas’s death but a DNA test can only provide a confirmation.
The attack on the prison in Jalalabad ended on Monday with the killing of all the attackers by Afghan security forces. Afghan officials said a total of 29 people were killed and 50 others injured.
The Afghan defence ministry said in a statement that the attackers and two security personnel were among the dead. It added that five prisoners were killed by the attackers and 1,025 prisoners were rescued.
ISKP’s media arm released a 20-minute audio message in which the group’s spokesman Sultan Aziz Azzam provided details of the attack. This was one of the rare occasions when ISKP has made a detailed claim for an attack.
Azzam said the attack was carried out by 11 IS members - four Tajiks, three Indians, three Afghans and a Pakistani, who were divided into four groups. The assault was in keeping with a promise by new ISKP chief Shahab al-Muhajir to release the group’s prisoners. A suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden vehicle at the gate of the prison while others entered the jail and freed hundreds of prisoners, Azzam claimed.
Earlier this year, NIA had registered its first case related to an attack on foreign soil following the IS attack on a Gurudwara in Kabul in March. ISKP member Mohammed Sajid Kuthurimmal, who also belongs to Kerala, was allegedly involved in this attack that killed nearly 30 people.