Texas police search area after tip on disappearance of missing refugee girl Lina Sardar Khil

Lina Sardar Khil was last seen on Dec. 20, 2021, according to police.

ByDeena Zaru ABCNews logo
Saturday, February 17, 2024
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Police in San Antonio said they began a new search after receiving a tip related to the disappearance of Lina Sardar Khil, a three-year-old Afghan refugee who moved to the U.S. with her family in search of a better life but went missing on Dec. 20, 2021.

The new search was conducted Thursday morning and continued Friday, police said.

"After nearly two years investigating the disappearance of Lina Khil, the San Antonio Police Department remains committed to following-up on and investigating every lead that we receive," Officer Ricardo Guzman, a spokesperson for the San Antonio Police Department, told ABC News on Friday. "The lead detective continues to use all tools available, including working with our partners at the FBI to investigate all leads."

Guzman, who spoke with reporters who showed up at the site of the search on Thursday, told ABC affiliate in San Antonio, KENS, that police received a tip early Thursday morning that led to a new search behind the Helix Apartments at Wurzbach and Bluemel, which is about half a mile away from where Lina disappeared.

Asked repeatedly about the nature of the tip, Guzman said that to protect "the safety of the person," he "can't say" who gave the tip to police.

Asked on Friday morning if there are any updates in the case, Guzman told ABC News that "at this time there are no updates on Lina's case," adding that it is "still an active missing person investigation."

Pamela Allen, who is representing the Khil family, told ABC News on Friday morning that Lina's family was informed about the tip after meeting with SAPD and the FBI this week and the family plans to be present on-site as the search continues on Friday morning.

Allen is the CEO of Eagles Flight Advocacy and Outreach, one of the local organizations and nonprofits that has been assisting in the search for Lina.

According to Allen, Lina's father, Riaz Khil, attended a two-hour meeting with SAPD and the FBI on Wednesday, along with two Afghan translators and an Afghani council member "to help resolve some issues that involved communication concerns and other items that needed clarification."

The family has previously said in media reports that they were dissatisfied with the level of communication they are having with SAPD on the state of the case.

Asked how often SAPD communicates with the Khil Family, Guzman said, "our detectives are in communications with the family when needed. When there is an update, we will provide them with an update. if there's anything that we need to address with them, we will and we do."

Allen said that after the meeting on Wednesday, police informed the family "that they received a tip and they responded by going to an area that has been searched previously."

Allen said that ahead of Lina's 6th birthday on Feb. 20, "the family is on edge."

"Our town is certainly waiting for information on this case and hoping answers come forth," she added.

On Feb. 20, 2022 - Lina's fourth birthday - the Islamic Center of San Antonio announced that it increased a $120,000 reward for any information on Lina to $200,000. Meanwhile, Crime Stoppers of San Antonio has offered $50,000 for information resulting in the arrest or indictment of a suspect accused of involvement in Lina's disappearance, bringing the latest total to $250,000.

Allen told ABC News at the time that Lina's family had hoped to celebrate their daughter's birthday with her at home.

"Her light is missing from her family and community. Our continuous prayer is that she will be back in the arms of those that love her," she said.

Lina was last seen on Dec. 20, 2021, at a playground on the 9400 block of Fredericksburg Road in San Antonio between 4:30 p.m. and 5:10 p.m., according to police. Police previously released surveillance video that shows Lina playing at the playground near the family's home at the Villa Del Cabo apartment complex before she disappeared.

Lina has brown eyes and straight, brown hair, and was last seen wearing a black jacket, red dress, and black shoes, according to police.

Lina's family is part of an Afghan refugee community in San Antonio, They arrived in the United States in 2019 and speak Pashto.

Lina's mother, Zarmeena Sardar Khil, said through a translator in a 2022 interview spoke with FOX 29 in San Antonio.

"We all have the same pain, it doesn't matter that I am from Afghanistan, I have a different culture, different religion. What we have in common is the pain of motherhood as a human, is the same as all people," she said.

In January 2022, Allen's organization shared a photo taken by a family member of Lina the day she disappeared in hopes that details about Lina's jewelry could assist the public in identifying her.

In the photo, which was obtained by ABC News, Lina appears to be wearing blue bangle bracelets on one wrist and gold-toned bangles on the other. She is also wearing small gold earrings and an article around her neck that Allen said is known as the Taweez, which is etched with verses from the Quran and is usually worn for protection.

Police are urging anyone with information regarding Lina or her whereabouts to come forward and contact the SAPD's special victims unit at 210-207-2313.