Merrin Jacob

Merrin Jacob alias Mariyam, IS sympathizer, was married to Bestin Vincent, a resident of Palakkad. The couple escaped to Afghanistan in 2016 to live in the IS-controlled territory. Later, the Chrisitan couple converted to Islam after their marriage, and Vincent assumed the identity of Yahya. Vincent was later killed in Afghanistan. Born Merrin Jacob Pallath, Mariyam changed her name after converting to Islam to marry a childhood sweetheart, also a convert. Now 26, she has been widowed twice since coming to Afghanistan. But she was soon remarried to another member of the group, her second husband, Abdul Rashid, was already married to Ayesha, formerly known as Sonia Sebastian, another Indian recruit who is in prison with Mariyam. Rashid had played a key role in the radicalization and recruitment of the group, according to a charge sheet filed by the NIA. He was killed in an attack in Nangarhar in October last year, after which the remaining members of the group surrendered.

Mariyam grew up as a Catholic in the south Indian state of Kerala to languishing in an Afghan prison as a member of the ISIS affiliate known as Islamic State Khorasan Province. Mariyam and seven other Indian women who took the same path are being held by Afghanistan’s spy agency, the National Directorate of Security, in the far corner of prison in Kabul. They were arrested after Afghan forces retook the eastern province of Nangarhar from ISIS in November 2019. Nangarhar was where ISIS first gained a foothold in Afghanistan in 2015, establishing the reign of terror that it had become known for in Iraq and Syria. Since then the group has carried out scores of attacks on civilian and government targets while also fighting rival militants from the Afghan Taliban. Hundreds of people have died in its suicide bombings, mainly in Jalalabad, the provincial capital, and in Kabul. She is among the first known ISIS recruits from India, a country that has experienced an increase in religious polarisation since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party came to power in 2014. Her departure for Afghanistan in 2016, along with a group of about 20 other young people from Kerala’s Ernakulam district, caused a national furore. Nothing was heard of them until after their arrest, and Mariyam’s interview with The National is the first time she has spoken to the press since then.

Merrin Jacob Bio

Name: Merrin Jacob

Age: 26 years

Birth Place: Ernakulam, Kerela, India.

Other Names: Mariyam (Islamic Name), Merrin Jacob Pallath (Birth Name)

Occupation: IS Sympathizer/ Member of the ISIS affiliate

Marital Status: Widow

Spouse: First: Bestin Vincent (assumed name- Yahya); Second: Abdul Rashid

Children: a 10-month-old baby and another child, aged 3.

Afghan Residence: Kalavaraparambil House, Murikkavu, Yakkara, Palakkad

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