Ijas Kallukettiya Purayil, a one-time dentist from Kerala’s Kasargod, is believed to be among the suicide attackers killed when the his jihadist unit stormed a prison in Afghanistan's Jalalabad on Sunday, intelligence sources have told News18. Twenty-nine people, including at least 10 suicide attackers, are reported to have been killed in the attack aimed at freeing jihadists from the prison on Eid.
The suicide attacker’s wife, Rafilla Purayil, and has been held in Kabul’s Badam Bagh prison along with their five-year-old son, Ayaan, and as well as an infant born in Afghanistan.
The family learned of Purayil’s death on Monday from messages circulated on social media by the Islamic State, said police sources. A senior Kerala Police officer familiar with the case said they were yet to receive any official confirmation of the death from the Ministry of External Affairs, but were seeking information.
“The only way to be certain about these things is to match the DNA of the body with that taken from his parents,” said the official. “Given that flights between India and Afghanistan are not operating normally, this could take some time.”
Purayil is the second Kerala-origin jihadist to have been killed in a a suicide-strike involving the Islamic State. Muhammad Muhsin, a 21-year old high-school dropout from Kerala earlier living in the United Arab Emirates, died in an attack on a gurdwara in Kabul, which claimed the lives of 27 members of the city’s tiny Sikh community.
Born in May 1984 to Abdul Rehman Parambath and Afsath Kallukettiya, Purayil left for Afghanistan in mid-2016 as part of a group of 26 Kerala residents linked to an Islamist cult run by the neo-fundamentalist preacher Abdul Rashid Abdullah. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) issued a notice through the international police agency Interpol later that year, seeking his arrest.
The individuals in that group of 26 included Purayil’s younger brother, Shiyas Kallukettiya Purayil, and a cousin, Ashfaq Majeed Purayil. The younger sibling, Shiyas Purayil, is thought to have been killed in a United States military drone strike in Nangarhar along with his wife Ajmala Purayil, several months pregnant when she left for Afghanistan.
Ashfaq Purayil, who once ran a hotel in Mumbai, is also thought to have survived the bomb strikes. His wife, Shamsiya Purayil, and their four-year-old daughter Ayesha, are also among those held in Badam Bagh prison.
Government sources say the Purayil case is of critical importance because of evidence it could throw up between possible links between the Islamic State in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s intelligence services. NIA officials had been scheduled to leave for Kabul earlier this year to question Aijaz Ahanger, an ethnic-Kashmiri jihadist from Srinagar alleged to be leading the cell which commanded Purayil and others from India.
Afghanistan’s intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security, says although Ahanger’s group branded itself as a part of the Islamic State, it operated under the orders of the Haqqani Network -- a key faction of the Taliban run by warlord Sirajuddin Haqqani and with close links to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.
Afghan government officials have told News18 that evidence of the group’s links to the Haqqani Network emerged from interrogations of the overall commander of the Islamic State forces in the Nangarhar region, Abdullah Orakzai.
Ahanger was a close associate of Budgam resident Abdul Gani Dar — also known by the alias Abdullah Gazali — who founded the Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen — a jihadist group with close links to Kashmir’s Ahl-e-Hadith neo-fundamentalist movement. Dar was murdered by rivals in the group last year, having earlier served several years in prison.
In 1996, Ahanger married Dar’s daughter, Rukhsana Dar, in 1992. The following year, the couple fled to Pakistan through Nepal, Indian intelligence services believe.
Rukhsana Dar is among a group of Indian jihad-widows held in Badam Bagh prison, along with her daughters Sabira, born according to her travel documents on September 13, 1997, and Tooba, born on December 27, 2001.
The NIA had been granted permission to question Ahanger as well as the nine Indian women linked to slain Islamic State jihadists now held in Badam Bagh jail early this year. The agency’s plans were, however, put on hold after international flights were terminated as the coronavirus pandemic took hold in both countries.
Government sources said the NIA is now considering sending officials on a non-commercial special flight.