SAN ANTONIO – Six months after Lina Khil was last seen at a playground in her family’s apartment complex, answers are still scarce on what happened to the then-3-year-old girl.
Investigators with the FBI or the San Antonio Police Department, which is the lead agency in Lina’s disappearance, have not publicized any theory of what happened to Lina. However, a retired FBI agent who leads a non-profit private investigation group helping the family with the case does not believe she walked away on her own.
“She, I think, was clearly taken, or if you want to use the term ‘abducted.’ She was taken or maybe voluntarily walked away with somebody that she may have known,” said Abel Peña, director of Project Absentis. “Those are just, again, working theories. So we’re still working all of that out. And then, hopefully, we get that one tip that could lead us in the right direction.”
The critical details of “who” or “why” still aren’t clear to him. And while Peña says his group, which is helping the family at no cost, vets and passes on leads to the FBI about what may have happened to Lina, “they won’t necessarily update me with what transpired or where it’s going.”
Lina’s family is from Afghanistan, and Peña said his group has people with contacts overseas and is looking into possible ties. However, he cautioned it was “nothing really solid” and that they are not suggesting Lina could be back in Afghanistan.
Khil was last seen on Dec. 20 at the Villas del Cabo apartment complex in the 9400 block of Fredericksburg. Police said Lina’s mother left her on the playground with other children at the time.
When she returned a “short time later,” SAPD Chief William McManus said, Lina was gone.
Lina’s family observed her 4th birthday on Feb. 20, two months after she disappeared. Though it was a somber affair, her father held out hope she would be back with her family to celebrate her 5th birthday.
Peña is also hopeful Lina is still alive.
“I mean, she’s just a precious little girl. And, you know, we’re -- I can’t imagine anybody that would have any nefarious or sinister thoughts about her. But she’s a beautiful, young little girl that we’re very hopeful that she’s still alive, and we’re going to continue searching for her,” Peña said.
An observance of the six months since Lina’s disappearance took place Monday outside the Muslim Children Education and Civic Center.
Through a translator, Lina’s father, Riaz Khil, said his family has been holding onto hope, but her disappearance has caused great sadness.
“For the last six months, I have been living with the sorrow and upset but with sadness,” he said.
Riaz Khil said he and his family left Afghanistan for a better life, but he feels his children aren’t safe.
“We came here to have a safe and prosperous life. My life was in danger back in Afghanistan. Here, only in my life, it seems, is safe. But my children’s life is not safe,” he said.
Crime Stoppers of San Antonio has offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and indictment of anyone connected to Lina’s disappearance. The Islamic Center of San Antonio has put up a $200,000 reward for information leading to her return.
Anyone with information is asked to call the SAPD Missing Persons Unit at 210-207-7660 or Crime Stoppers at 210-224-7867.
WATCH: Community members gather for prayer service six months after Lina Khil’s disappearance