herald

Sunday 25 August 2019

Irish officials fear jihadi bride could be arrested on way home from Syria

Mother-of-one Lisa Smith
Mother-of-one Lisa Smith

Officials involved in the repatriation of Islamic State (IS) bride Lisa Smith have expressed serious concerns about the prospect of her being detained en route home to Ireland.

One option that has been considered is for the Dundalk woman to be returned through northern Iraq, but fears were raised that she could be arrested on the spot over her alleged allegiance to IS.

The Herald understands that the Iraqi route would have formed part of a proposal to return Ms Smith (37) to Ireland, which may now not happen for several weeks.

This specific route is not believed to be part of plans to bring her home any more.

Officials had proposed returning her through the city of Erbil, in the north of the country, which is the capital city of Iraqi Kurdistan.

US-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian forces have been at the forefront of the battle against IS in recent years.

Erbil's strong Kurdish background, along with Ms Smith's alleged IS links, are understood to be the reason for concerns she would be arrested if she were to be repatriated through the city.

Ms Smith and her two-year-old daughter are in a camp controlled by Kurdish forces.

Ireland has been working with a number of other European countries that also have nationals in Syria.

Battle

IS brides from countries including the UK, France, Denmark and Sweden are demanding repatriation - and Ireland has been using these diplomatic contacts to secure a channel to get Ms Smith home.

Previously the US, staunch allies of the Kurds in the battle against IS, had warned European countries that they needed to accept back their nationals who travelled to Syria and Iraq.

Ms Smith spent a decade in the Defence Forces, serving as a soldier in the Army for five years before joining the Air Corps.

She also worked as a flight attendant on the Government jet during Bertie Ahern's time as taoiseach.

It emerged last month that another Irish citizen arrested for alleged IS terror links abroad could also be blocked from returning to Ireland.

Alexandr Ruzmatovich Bekmirzaev (45), originally from Belarus, left Ireland in 2013 to travel to Syria.

He was captured by Kurdish fighters battling against the jihadists last year.

Gardai, who described him as "a serious player" after he was captured in Syria, are now investigating his immigration status.

Sham

Mr Bekmirzaev, who lived here for 13 years before going to Syria, was believed by garda anti-terrorist officers and military intelligence to be a key member of a logistics support cell for IS in Dublin.

He is now under investigation by the garda National Immigration Bureau.

As part of his citizenship application, he claimed he was legally married. However, it has since been alleged that his marriage was a sham and he paid a woman to marry him.

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