A 23-year-old Kabul University graduate killed in Syria while fighting for Islamic State

In a shocking case, which has reinforced the belief that young and gullible Afghans are being indoctrinated to join terrorist groups, a Kabul University graduate has reportedly been killed in Syria while fighting for the Islamic State.

The 23-year-old Mohammad Rafi Darwazi disappeared two months ago with his two friends and former classmates. He told his parents that he is going to Jalalabad with friends. He never returned.

The distraught family searched for him everywhere but could not find his whereabouts. They tried to contact his friends and former classmates but found no significant clue that could lead them to Rafi.

Two months later, his father’s worst fears came true and his mother’s world suddenly came crashing down. Their young son was no more.

One of Rafi’s friends informed the family that he had been killed in a U.S. coalition airstrike near the Iraqi oil town of Baiji in May, according to Washington Post (WP).

The curious case of Rafi, who had no previous association with any terrorist group in Afghanistan, is a perfect illustration of how successfully Islamic State group has made inroads in Afghanistan

Rafi and his friends are believed to be the first known cases of Afghans who have been killed in Syria while fighting for the Islamic State, also known by its Arabic acronym ‘Daesh’.

The curious case of Rafi, who had no previous association with any terrorist group in Afghanistan, is a perfect illustration of how successfully Islamic State group has managed to make inroads in Afghanistan.

Islamic State’s radical ideology has struck a chord among many educated youth in this country, including Rafi, who had a degree in computer science from Kabul University.

Like many young Afghans, he was influenced by the game of football and idolized former Brazilian football star Ronaldinho. Then, he lost the track and his interests also changed.

A close and careful look at Rafi’s Facebook page shows how the transformation in him took place slowly and gradually. From posting football videos, mostly the goals by Ronaldinho, he started posting religious literature, picture and videos.

He seemed concerned about the plight of Muslims across the world and the silence of Muslim world over the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Burma.

Influenced by the radical ideology of Islamic State, Rafi’s Facebook page is replete with propaganda videos of the militant group persuading Muslims to join the “holy war” (jehad).

In one of his recent posts, he made a distinction between ‘Muslims’ and ‘so-called Muslims’. “For defending our rights, we need Muslims not the so-called Muslims,” he wrote.

He occasionally posted the black flag of the Islamic State group, and passionately argued on one of his posts over why the flag of Islamic State is the “flag of Islam”.

He also posted videos of lectures by Yemeni-American preacher Anwar al-Awlaki and Pakistan’s Israr Ahmad, showing his deep interest in religious studies.

Islamic State group, which announced its arrival in Afghanistan early last year, has upped the ante in recent months, wooing local insurgents through an intense recruitment drive

Rafi and his two friends were joined by 19 other Afghans, who were allegedly recruited by a group in Jalalabad, before they left for Iran, his family told WP.

After arriving in Iran, they men crossed into Turkey and then their final destination – Syria. Their task was clear: to kill or be killed. In May, Rafi was killed along with many other fighters. 

Islamic State group, which announced its arrival in Afghanistan early last year, has upped the ante in recent months, wooing local insurgents through an intense recruitment drive.

According to a report released by the U.S. Department of State this week, the terrorist group is “likely to continue engaging Afghan insurgent and terrorist groups” in a bid to expand its presence in the country”.

Another report by Pentagon, released on Wednesday, states that the group is in an “initial exploratory phase” in Afghanistan and likely to expand its presence in Afghanistan in the upcoming year to “compete for relevance with the Taliban and other extant terrorist and insurgent groups”.

After living in denial for a long time, the growing presence of Islamic State (IS) group in Afghanistan has been acknowledged by senior Afghan government and security officials recently.

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