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Saturday 7 December 2019

'No negotiations' with Syrians to bring IS bride Smith home

IS bride Lisa Smith is in Syria
IS bride Lisa Smith is in Syria

Syrian officials say there have been no moves to repatriate Islamic State (IS) bride Lisa Smith from Syria.

Dr Abdulkarim Omar, head of foreign relations in the autonomous administration of North-East Syria, said the Irish Government has not requested to repatriate Smith.

Speaking in Qamishli, northern Syria, he said: "There have been no negotiations between Ireland and the North-East Syrian administration."

Smith, who spent 10 years in the Defence Forces, left Ireland in 2015 and was smuggled across the Turkish border into Syria, where she joined IS and is believed to have trained children to use weapons.

Shortly after Smith's detention, the Government announced Ireland would be repatriating all its jihadis - but no Irish prisoners, children or women have been returned.

Government sources claim regional complexities prevent them from working directly with the Kurdish-led de facto government.

Insecure

NGOs such as the International Red Cross are assisting countries in the region but they are often working with limited resources in an insecure region.

Sources close to Smith's family say they have not heard from the Dundalk native since her arrest by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces earlier this year.

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs declined to comment on any individual case.

Meanwhile, Alexandr Bekmirzaev, who carries an Irish passport, is also being held in a prison in northern Syria.

The former bouncer was born in Uzbekistan and became a naturalised Irish citizen before leaving for Syria in 2013.

Garda sources say they have sent a file to the Department of Justice containing evidence that Bekmirzaev obtained citizenship though a "sham marriage" with an EU citizen.

It is believed the Government is considering revoking Bekmirzaev's citizenship, a move which could see his wife and child also stripped of any right to return. They are currently living beside Smith in a secure section of a Syrian refugee camp for IS family members.

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