Daesh recruit says many foreign fighters jailed or killed

Abdul Ahad Rustam Nazarov, 28, a Tajik man who joined Daesh, talks during an interview with Reuters, in the town of Rmeilan, Hasaka province, Syria. (Reuters)
Updated 11 April 2019
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Daesh recruit says many foreign fighters jailed or killed

  • “I was jailed three times for trying to leave,” he said
  • He said most foreign men who traveled to Syria were immediately taken to Mosul in Iraq for military training

RMEILAN, Syria: A Tajik man who joined Daesh said many foreigners who enlisted in its self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria were jailed or killed for trying to leave.
The 28-year-old, who once drove a taxi in Moscow, said he handed himself over to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed group, from Daesh’s last holdout of Baghouz in eastern Syria last month after years of trying to escape.
SDF officials monitored and recorded a Reuters interview with the man, Abdul Ahad Rustam Nazarov, at an SDF center in Rmeilan in Syria. Reuters could not verify his account.
Tajikistan has offered amnesty to those who quit Daesh and return home, provided they’ve committed no other crimes.
Nazarov says he never fought for Daesh. Parts of his account about his life were inconsistent, although other parts matched what others have said about Daesh, including its strict judicial system and its eventual defeat.
“I was jailed three times for trying to leave,” Nazarov said. “I wanted to come and see Islamic State for myself ... and to help those being oppressed by the Syrian government.
“But I didn’t want to make a pledge of allegiance to the caliphate.”
Nazarov said most foreign men who traveled to Syria were immediately taken to Mosul in Iraq for military training.
Some refused and were punished, he said, describing a special Daesh judicial section that dealt with those trying to flee or refusing to pledge allegiance.
“Some friends were executed ... because they were not ready to commit to IS,” he said.
Escape attempts
Nazarov said he tried more than once to escape to Turkey across the Syrian border. He said he made contact with authorities in Tajikistan to arrange for his own surrender. Tajik interior ministry and state security officials, speaking anonymously because they were not authorized to comment, said neither body had received requests from Nazarov.
Thousands of men from Central Asian are estimated to have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join Islamic State since 2014, when it declared its caliphate.
The Sunni militant group was driven from all territory it controlled in Iraq in 2017 and from its final redoubt of Baghouz in eastern Syria last month.
Some foreigners including Central Asians surrendered but most were killed, Nazarov said.
“There were experienced snipers in IS ranks who were from Chechnya. Most of them died in battle, especially in Mosul, Baiji and Raqqa,” he said.
Nazarov said Daesh militants tried to stop men surrendering to the SDF in Baghouz, locking them in cars and firing at them when they eventually fled.
The US-backed campaign to drive Daesh out of Iraq and Syria involved tough battles with hardened militants, especially in Mosul and Raqqa.
Nazarov said he once met Gulmurod Khalimov, a Tajik military commander who joined Daesh, in an Internet cafe in Mosul frequented by militants. He belives Khalimov was killed fighting.
Nazarov said he wanted to be reunited with his pregnant wife, a Chechen now in Al-Hol camp in Syria, where 60,000 people who fled Baghouz live. “My other two children starved in Baghouz,” he said.


Sri Lanka’s president orders execution of 4 drug convicts

Updated 26 June 2019
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Sri Lanka’s president orders execution of 4 drug convicts

  • The executions if carried out will end a 43-year moratorium on capital punishment
  • President Maithripala Sirisena says narcotic drugs have become a serious menace across the country with 300,000 addicts

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka’s president said on Wednesday that he has ordered the executions of four drug offenders who will be hanged in prison soon, amid alarm over drug-related crimes in this Indian Ocean island nation.
The executions if carried out will end a 43-year moratorium on capital punishment.
President Maithripala Sirisena told a media discussion on Wednesday that he has signed the death warrants including the days of the executions and sent them to prison authorities.
He said narcotic drugs have become a serious menace across the country with 300,000 addicts. According to Sirisena, 60 percent of 24,000 inmates have been jailed for drug-related offenses. Sri Lanka prisons are built to accommodate 11,000 people.
Sri Lanka last executed a prisoner in 1976. Currently, 1,299 prisoners are on death row, including 48 convicted of drug offenses.
Prison authorities are now in the process of recruiting two hangmen after two others quit without executing anyone.
At present, 26 people have been shortlisted for a two-day training, said Bandula Jayasinghe, an official at the Justice and Prison Reforms Ministry.
Drug trafficking is a capital offense in Sri Lanka, which authorities believe is used by peddlers as a transit hub.
Rights groups and foreign governments including the EU have previously criticized Sirisena’s suggestions to revive the death penalty, saying there is no perfect criminal justice system and the risk of executing an innocent person can never be eliminated.
Sirisena, who visited the Philippines in January, praised President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on illegal drugs as “an example to the world.” Thousands of suspects, mostly urban poor, have been slain since Duterte took office in 2016. Rights groups have denounced what they say are extrajudicial killings. Police say most of the suspects were killed in encounters with officers.
Sri Lanka is predominantly Buddhist, a religion that advocates non-violence. Sirisena has previously said the country has had positive influences from all religions but tough law enforcement is necessary to curb crime and maintain order.
In April, police publicly destroyed 770 kilograms (1,695 pounds) of drugs seized in 2016 and 2017. Police have seized 731 kilograms (1,608 pounds) of heroin, 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of cocaine and 1,607 kilograms (3,535 pounds) of marijuana so far this year.
Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in Sri Lanka, followed by heroin and cocaine. Drug-related arrests rose 2 percent in 2017 from the previous year to 81,156.