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Sunday 17 November 2019

Elite Army Rangers to help oversee operation to bring IS bride home

Lisa Smith is expected to be questioned by authorities
Lisa Smith is expected to be questioned by authorities

Islamic State bride Lisa Smith is expected to be questioned by Turkish authorities before she can be repatriated to Ireland with the help of special forces.

A highly-trained team from the Army Ranger Wing (ARW) has been deployed to assist the operation in the past week which is being led by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Ms Smith and her daughter are currently being held at a safe house on the Turkish-Syrian border by the Syrian National Army.

Backed

The militia is backed by Turkey, but security sources have said the country's own officials will want to question her when she arrives in Turkey ahead of her return to Ireland.

This is expected to take place once she enters Turkey, before she will be allowed continue her journey.

A two-man team from the ARW, who are highly trained in close protection, has been deployed in the last week ahead of her expected return.

The Defence Force personnel are there to act in an oversight capacity rather than engaging in any active operation.

"This isn't going to be a dawn raid with a helicopter to pull them out. The (ARW) members are there purely in an oversight capacity," a source said.

It follows months of dialogue between various agencies led by the Irish ambassador to Jordan.

Gardai have also confirmed in recent weeks that their investigation into Ms Smith is continuing.

Assistant Garda Commissioner Michael O'Sullivan said she is under investigation on suspicion of engaging in terrorist offences while in Syria.

"She has said herself that she does not pose a threat, that she does not hold radical views," he said.

"But like the others that have returned, that has to be part of an assessment," the senior garda added.

Ms Smith moved to Syria, via Tunisia, in 2015 shortly after leaving the Air Corps, where she worked as a flight attendant on the government jet and as a driver to senior officers.

She also served for a time with the Army as part of the 27th Infantry Battalion.

The 2005 Terrorist Offences Act states legislation prohibiting membership of domestic terrorist groups such as the IRA also applies to foreign terrorist groups, even if their crimes do not take place on Irish soil.

The Department of Justice has previously said that "by its nature and actions, IS clearly qualifies as a 'terrorist group' involved in 'terrorist activity' or 'terrorist-linked activity', all as defined in Section 4 of the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005, by reference to the EU framework decision on combating terrorism".

Offence

The offence of membership of a terrorist group carries a maximum term of 10 years in prison.

Ms Smith had been held at the Ain Issa Camp after being arrested by security forces, but she had escaped in recent weeks along with around 750 other people with links to the terror organisation.

In March, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said she should be allowed to return to Ireland because it is the "compassionate thing".

In a previous interview with The Mail On Sunday newspaper, Ms Smith had denied having ever fought for IS or of holding extremist views.

"I'm not, like, out to kill anyone," she said.

"I don't believe in suicide attacks."

When specifically asked if she had ever actively fought for IS, she said: "No, I didn't do anything.

"I didn't even own a gun. My husband many times said to me, 'You want me to buy you one?' I said no."

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