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How a minor Indian girl escaped Syrian battlefield

17-year-old was radicalised by Yemeni woman in Doha

Buried in a slim file of the security establishment is the story of a 17-year-old Indian girl who had a miraculous escape from the possible clutches of the Islamic State in late 2014, after she undertook an arduous trip to the Syrian battlefield. She now lives in relative anonymity in a south Indian city.

According to an official statement of the girl recorded by Indian agencies, she escaped after several days of captivity in Turkey. But officials familiar with the case say there is strong indication, including electronic evidence, that she escaped from Syria. The girl had been living in Doha, Qatar, since she was two years old, with her parents, a sister and two brothers. Her father is a software engineer in the Gulf country.

The girl was detained by Indian agencies in the early hours of December 20, 2014, when she alighted from the Qatar Airways flight QR500 at the Hyderabad airport with her mother. Based on intelligence inputs, she was taken to a detention centre at the airport and questioned by a team of intelligence and State police officials.

According to details obtained from her, the girl came in contact with a 29-year-old Yemeni woman, Amani Abdul, through a Malayali acquaintance just after she completed schooling in Doha in May 2014. Abdul was a nurse at Hamad Hospital in Doha and was pursuing her masters in nursing.

The girl started giving English tuitions to Abdul, who stayed on the outskirts of Doha, in Umm Salal. According to the police records, Abdul gave the girl several expensive gifts such as cell phones and laptop, and also went around Doha with her, and the two developed a strong friendship. The girl taught Abdul English, while the Yemeni nurse tutored her in Islamic fanaticism. Abdul would often tell the minor girl about the Syrian crisis and atrocities against Muslims around the world. There were also regular WhatsApp messages on similar themes.

According to the statements given by her, the girl was brainwashed by Abdul to travel to Syria to help refugees, not to really join the Islamic State. It is a claim that Indian agencies are not convinced of.

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