Canadian extremist says Daesh foreign fighters ‘hung out to dry’

Mohammad Ali joined Daesh in 2014, and was captured while trying to flee north into Turkey with his Canadian wife and two children. (AFP)
Updated 11 February 2019
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Canadian extremist says Daesh foreign fighters ‘hung out to dry’

  • Hundreds of Daesh-affiliated men, women and children have streamed out of the group’s shrinking pocket in east Syria in the past two months
  • “The foreigners feel they were left out, hung out to dry, they’ve been used and abused,” he said

HASAKEH, Syria: A Canadian extremist detained in Syria told AFP on Sunday he has been “hung out to dry” by the Daesh group like other foreign fighters and appealed to his government for help.
Mohammad Ali, 28, was captured by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) some nine months ago while trying to flee north into Turkey with his Canadian wife and two children.
He was interviewed at a detention center in the northeastern city of Hasakah in the presence of two members of the SDF, who are holding hundreds of foreign extremists.
Ali, who joined Daesh in 2014 under the nom de guerre Abu Turab Al-Kanadi, said he had been interrogated by the American FBI, CIA and US defense officials, but never visited by a Canadian official.
“Every time I get taken for an interrogation or an interview, I’m hoping it’s with someone from the Canadian government, someone that can clarify my situation and give me a bit of hope.”
“Up until now, nothing,” he said. “I have nowhere else to go... How can they leave me sitting here like this in limbo?“
The Kurdish administration in northeastern Syria wants to send the prisoners back for trial, but governments in their countries of origin are often reluctant.
Canada’s foreign ministry said it had opened a communication channel with Kurdish authorities but that there was no agreement on repatriation.
The Families Against Violent Extremism (FAVE) non-profit said it knew of 25 Canadians held by the SDF.
Ali was dressed in a grey robe, matching cap and tattered black sandals.
He repeatedly said he was “exhausted” and often paused for long periods before mumbling an answer.
Like many other captured accused Daesh members, he said he joined the group to fight President Bashar Assad’s government.
He first worked in Deash’s lucrative oil ministry for four months because of his previous experience in Canada as an oil worker.
During that time, he used a prominent Twitter account to call on others to join the extremists, but said he was never part of Daesh’s formal media apparatus.
He spent the following three years as a fighter and trainer, but said he always refused to shoot civilians.
“That’s not why I came here,” he said.
AFP could not immediately verify the details of the account he gave of his time in the “caliphate.”
Ali said he began doubting his decision to join Daesh in late 2016, as the extremists began to lose territory and turn against foreigners, including a Dutch friend of his who was executed by the group.
“The foreigners feel they were left out, hung out to dry, they’ve been used and abused,” he said.
He paid a smuggler to take his Canadian wife, who he met under Daesh in Syria, and their two young girls north from Deir Ezzor province to the Turkish border.
Ali said he was planning to go to the Canadian embassy in Ankara but was caught by the SDF before crossing into Turkey.
He said he has been unable to speak to his wife or daughters, or his family in Canada, since being detained.
“All I think about is my wife and kids,” he said.
Hundreds of Daesh-affiliated men, women and children have streamed out of the group’s shrinking pocket in east Syria in the past two months, but journalists and advocates have limited access to them.
Ali said he was not aware of any SDF legal proceedings against him.
Asked what kind of future he was most afraid of, he said he feared being handed over to Syrian regime forces.
He is resigned to serving jail time at home but insisted he should not be considered in the same category as accused British Daesh executioners Alexanda Amon Kotey and El Shafee el-Sheikh, also held by the SDF.
“Now the foreigners are trying to leave, trying to get back home,” Ali told AFP.
“But a lot of the Syrians and the Iraqis, they’re just melting back into the population, holding down for a while, and when things start again, they will rise back up.
“It doesn’t really take a genius to figure this out. They have pockets in the desert, they have people intermingling with the population, acting as civilians, just biding their time.”


Palestinians to cut civil servant salaries after Israeli tax freeze

Updated 21 February 2019
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Palestinians to cut civil servant salaries after Israeli tax freeze

  • Israel's security cabinet on Sunday approved the freezing of $138 million (122 million euros) over the PA's payments to the families of prisoners, or prisoners themselves, jailed for attacks on Israelis
  • Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Wednesday he would not accept anything but full payment of the tax transfers owed by Israel

RAMALLAH: The Palestinian finance minister on Thursday announced salary cuts for civil servants, days after Israel said it would withhold tens of millions of dollars in tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority.
Israel's security cabinet on Sunday approved the freezing of $138 million (122 million euros) over the PA's payments to the families of prisoners, or prisoners themselves, jailed for attacks on Israelis.
Israel, which collects taxes on behalf of the PA, says the payments encourage further violence.
The PA claims they are a form of welfare to families who have lost their main breadwinner.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Wednesday he would not accept anything but full payment of the tax transfers owed by Israel.
The PA, which is already running a deficit, will "pay the salaries of civil servants in time, but they will be reduced", said PA finance minister Shukri Bishara after a meeting with EU representatives in Ramallah.
The cuts will not apply to salaries "paid to pensioners and families of martyrs, wounded or prisoners", he added, adding that wages below 2,000 shekels ($550) would also not be affected.
Many Palestinians view prisoners and those killed while carrying out attacks as heroes in their conflict with Israel. Palestinian leaders often venerate them as martyrs.
Under a 1994 agreement, Israel collects around $190 million each month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports.
The money it then transfers to the PA is the authority's most important source of revenue.
The Palestinians want EU countries to pressure the Israeli government to rescind its decision, said Mahmoud al-Aloul, deputy of Abbas's Fatah party.
Palestinian leaders will take steps to "boycott Israeli goods", he said, adding they had already prepared "a list of Israeli products that have local (Palestinian) equivalents".