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

HASAKEH, Syria (AFP) – A Canadian extremist detained in Syria told AFP on Sunday he has been “hung out to dry” by the Islamic State (IS) group like other foreign fighters and appealed to his government for help.

Mohammad Ali, 28, was captured by the United States (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 centre in the northeastern city of Hasakeh in the presence of two members of the SDF, who are holding hundreds of foreign militants.

Ali, who joined IS in 2014 under the nom de guerre Abu Turab al-Kanadi, said he had been interrogated by the American FBI, CIA and US defence 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 IS members, he said he joined the group to fight President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

He first worked in IS’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 militants, but said he was never part of IS’s formal media apparatus.

He spent the following three years as a fighter and trainer, but said he always refused to shoot civilians.