Before joining Islamic State, Daria Itsankova was a successful real estate agent and wrote fantasy stories for children. Things changed overnight when she became interested in Islam, kidnapped her four-year-old son and later moved to Syria.
Itsankova, 38, is on the wanted list for aiding terrorists and recruiting Russians into the ranks of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Syria.
Some seven years ago, Itsankova kidnapped her only son, David, from his father Mikhail and secretly took the boy first to Russia’s southern republic of Dagestan, and then to Syria. Now aged 10, David is thought to be based somewhere in Iraq. He is apparently with his step-sister, whose father, a Canadian boxer and friend of convicted Boston Marathon-bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was killed in Dagestan several years ago.
Itsankova’s husband recalled to RT Russian that after he found out that his wife “became part of a rebel group in the North Caucasus and later fled alongside IS militants” he simply could not believe it. “When we met, she was a completely different person,” he said.
In 2008, Itsankova, once a successful real estate agent, was dogged by serious problems at work: several clients had accused her of fraud. In order to turn a new page in her life, she moved to Aleksandrov, a town some 120km from Moscow, where Mikhail’s parents lived.
At that point, Mikhail left for Sochi, where he worked for almost a year. When he came back home in 2010, Itsankova told him that she had been captivated by Islam. “I didn’t pay any attention until she began to wear hijab and perform the daily Muslim prayers,” he told RT.
“One day, I came home to find neither her nor our child. She’d left a note on the table saying she had moved to another apartment,” Mikhail recalled. The note – which apparently read “your hound is at home, come home” – was left on April 1, April Fool’s day, so the father thought it might be a joke, RIA Novosti reports.
Yet, the husband learned from the message that Itsankova had begun to live with a Muslim man, Abraham. He allegedly treated David badly and forced him to learn Arabic, the child told his father. According to the boy, the man – who asked to be called ‘Brother Abraham’ – had beaten him with a belt and a stick, forbade him from singing, reading, drawing and playing games. All the toys from the house were thrown into the trash.
David told his father that his mother’s lover had shaved his head with a women’s shaver and afterwards told the boy: “Hey, bald head – your sweet life is over.”
RT has learned that the multi-talented Itsankova once worked as a copy editor in a publishing house. Mikhail believes that Daria came under the influence of Islamists on the internet, since she spent a lot of time browsing social networks for her job.
In 2011, Mikhail’s parents had intervened, and managed to take the boy away from his mother, to live with them in their house. Itsankova occasionally came to visit. During one of those visits, she allegedly kidnapped David and left for Makhachkala, the capital of the Russian Republic of Dagestan.
Howver, when Mikhail turned to the police, they refused to take any action, because technically, the boy was with his own mother. Little is known about Itsankova’s life in Dagestan, apart from minimal reports from Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), as well as materials from the scandalous criminal case against four women in Russia who sponsored ISIS fighters at the expense of the proceeds from the sale of children’s clothes and hand-made soap.
According to a source in the security forces, having moved to Makhachkala in 2011, Itsankova quickly established ties with the wives of IS militants, radical Islamists and members of local rebel groups.
She then apparently became involved in recruiting individuals for terrorism purposes and the collection of funds for IS militants. In Dagestan, Itsankova married former Canadian boxer William Plotnikov and gave birth to a daughter.
In 2012, FSB officers killed seven militants suspected of murdering policemen and attacking roadblocks in Dagestan, with Plotnikov among those shot dead.
After the death, Itsankova continued to raise funds for the militants, the security source claimed. In 2013, the FSB managed to track the woman down, but failed to detain her. Nothing more is known of Itsankova’s fate, except that until recently she was based in Iraq.
For the last seven years, Mikhail Mashedo, David’s father, has been desperately trying to bring his child back home. “When I found out, back in 2013, that Daria was on a terrorist list, I began to appeal to all authorities to help me get my son back.
And when I saw a terrible photo on the internet, on which my son David poses with the Kalashnikov assault rifle, I almost went mad,” Mashedo told RT.
“I want to save David. I’m scared for my son and for other children. The more time passes, the less likely it is that they will come back home.”
Russian authorities are currently seeking the return of several dozen children from orphanages in Iraq. In August, a four-year-old Chechen boy, Bilal Tagirov, was brought back to Russia after living with his jihadist father, who had been fighting alongside IS in Mosul.