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San Antonio police have released new surveillance footage showing the moment a three-year-old Afghan girl walked away from a playground before her mother reported her missing last year.

Lina Sardar Khil was last seen at the playground inside her gated Villas Del Cabo apartment complex on December 20, 2021.

Her mother Zarmeena had said she was watching Lina play with her younger brother when she turned around for five minutes. When she turned back, she could not see her daughter among the dozen-plus children. 

Footage taken from a resident’s security camera now shows Lina playing with her mother and younger brother on the playground that day before she walked out the gate.

The young child looked both ways and twirled her hair before walking out of view. 

Newly released surveillance footage shows 3-year-old Lina Sardar Khil stepping out of a playground at her San Antonio apartment complex before walking away

Newly released surveillance footage shows 3-year-old Lina Sardar Khil stepping out of a playground at her San Antonio apartment complex before walking away

The new footage comes one year after the girl was reported missing, as the San Antonio police provided an update on their investigation into Lina’s disappearance.

‘At some point in the video, she walked off the screen, and that was the last sighting that we have of her on video,’ Jeremy Volz said.

He noted that San Antonio police officers, working in conjunction with the FBI, have followed up on hundreds of tips about Lina’s whereabouts, but none of them have panned out and officers have still not been able to locate the now four-year-old girl.

Det. German Fuentes, of the Special Victims Unit, added that he thought the circumstances of the young girl’s disappearance were suspicious, saying ‘children don’t just vanish into thin air.

‘To be honest, they are suspicious circumstances based on the child’s age, the fact that we have not found any evidence to indicate where she is at,’ he said in the video posted to the San Antonio Police Department’s Facebook page.

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Fuentes added: ‘There is a critical witness somewhere out there. That person that knows something needs to come forward and disclose what they know.’

And, Volz said, the San Antonio Police Department will not give up on the search for the young immigrant.

‘That’s our ultimate goal, is to find Lina,’ he said. ‘Until she’s found, no person and no theory can be ruled out on what happened to her.’

The now four-year-old disappeared on December 20, 2021 in what police say are suspicious circumstances

The now four-year-old disappeared on December 20, 2021 in what police say are suspicious circumstances

Lina's mother, Zarmeena, said she turned away for a few minutes and when she turned back around she could not see her daughter playing in the playground with the other kids

Lina’s mother, Zarmeena, said she turned away for a few minutes and when she turned back around she could not see her daughter playing in the playground with the other kids 

Zarmeena has said she remembers letting her daughter out to play with other children on December 20, 2021.

Around 5.30pm, Zarmeena was watching Lina, who was wearing a black jacket, a red dress and black shoes, run around the complex’s playground. She saw the back of Lina’s head before she turned away for five minutes.

When she turned around, she couldn’t find Lina among the dozen-plus children. 

She then knocked on every door for the next 30 minutes before calling Riaz. 

‘I kept thinking Lina would appear,’ she said, noting she figured her daughter went off to play with another local Afghan family.

Both Riaz and Zarmeena then reached out to several local Afghan community leaders to aid in their search for their daughter.

‘Our community does not trust the authorities,’ said Lawang Mangal. ‘He did not know what to do.’

After an hour into Lina’s disappearance, Mangal urged the Sardar family to call the police.

The local Afghan refugee community came together for days to search for Lina

The local Afghan refugee community came together for days to search for Lina 

Locals gathered for a community-based search and rescue effort following Lina's disappearance

Locals gathered for a community-based search and rescue effort following Lina’s disappearance 

Authorities then rushed to the apartment complex, Volz said, and went door-to-door at the apartment complex to question all residents.

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They checked cars and dumpsters for the young child, and used dogs to search the area around the playground.

In the first few hours, Police Chief William McManus said, those dogs were able to pick up a scent, but quickly lost it and were never able to pick it up again.

Local officials later called in the FBI to help with the search, given the suspicious circumstances surrounding the case.

By September, McManus said both departments had sifted through all the tips and leads over the course of nine months, but were still unable to uncover any new information.

He said at the time he was confused by the circumstances surrounding her disappearance.

‘I have not talked to anyone about this case, family or law enforcement, that’s just not baffled,’ McManus said.

‘Nobody vanishes into thin air, and I don’t believe that Lina did either. I never give up. I don’t think the police ever give up on a case.’

Pamela Allen, a family spokesperson, told KENS5 that a private investigator has also been hired to assist investigators.

‘There’s been a few leads that have come in, but nothing solid,’ she said.

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus had said dogs were able to pick up her scent in the hours after Lina's disappearance, but quickly lost it

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus had said dogs were able to pick up her scent in the hours after Lina’s disappearance, but quickly lost it

Police and FBI agents are pictured scouring the scene of the playground inside the gated Villas Del Cabo apartment complex

Police and FBI agents are pictured scouring the scene of the playground inside the gated Villas Del Cabo apartment complex

Public searches for Lina in the San Antonio area have since been called off, as authorities no longer believe she is still in Texas.

But Allen has urged all locals to continue wearing buttons with Lina’s face on it and to post flyers describing her appearance.

‘We’re believing that someone will say something that will lead out to be a good tip,’ Allen said.

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A $250,000 reward is available to anyone who is able to provide information leading to Lina’s whereabouts.

At the time of her disappearance, she was described as four-feet-tall and weighing 55lbs, with brown eyes and straight, shoulder-length brown hair tied in a ponytail. She was last seen wearing a black jacket, a red dress and black shoes. 

The young girl had previously survived a suicide bombing in Afghanistan

The young girl had previously survived a suicide bombing in Afghanistan 

Her father, Riaz, said he decided to get the family to flee Afghanistan where 'threats' were posed to his family

Her father, Riaz, said he decided to get the family to flee Afghanistan where ‘threats’ were posed to his family

Her disappearance came as a shock to the local Afghan community, many of whom had moved to Texas from the war-torn country. 

The Khil family, for example, moved to the US in 2019 from Afghanistan after fleeing from ‘threats that were posed to us,’ Lina’s father, Riaz, told KENS5. 

Riaz was an Afghan soldier who aided US forces and was granted immigration prior to Lina’s birth — and when they returned to the country for a family visit, Lina and her family, survived a suicide bombing that killed 13 US soldiers and hundreds of Afghans in the summer of 2021.

Riaz said he believed San Antonio was a good place to relocate his family, as the city is home to an estimated 2,600 Afghan refugees.

‘We came from Afghanistan to have a happy and safe life here, but it didn’t happen,’ Riaz said.

‘My whole life was ruined.’

‘During our entire lives we have not been as saddened as we were yesterday and today,’ Riaz Khil said last year as the search continued for his young daughter. 

He now works as a truck driver while his wife has become entwined in a community of Afghan women who live in their apartment complex. 

Anyone with any information can call SAPD’s Missing Persons Unit at (210) 207-7660 or Crime Stoppers at (210) 224-7867. 

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