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Sunday 22 January 2017

People-smugglers helped mother and daughter flee war-torn Syria

Fiona Ellis

Published 22/10/2011 | 05:00

Main, May (7) and Louise back home in Swords, Co Dublin
Main, May (7) and Louise back home in Swords, Co Dublin
From left, Louise Monaghan, her daughter May Assad Monaghan and her father Mostafa Assad, who snatched May and took her to Syria

A MOTHER who risked her life to rescue her kidnapped daughter from war-torn Syria has told how people-smugglers helped the pair escape to freedom over mountains in the dead of night.

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And last night, she revealed she was now considering entering witness protection to prevent such a nightmare from happening again.

Louise Monaghan (36) dramatically rescued her six-year-old daughter May Assad Monaghan in Syria after she was snatched by her father.

Last night, the brave mother appeared on 'The Late Late Show' to speak of their epic journey as they escaped across the Syrian border into Lebanon and safety.

Walk

Louise, originally from Swords in Co Dublin, met her ex-husband Mostafa Assad in Cyprus, where she was living at the time. The pair had a daughter but eventually split.

On September 7, May went for a walk with her father and didn't return.

She was taken to Syria, to the family home of Mr Assad, who then contacted his ex-wife and told her to sell her belongings in Cyprus and move to Syria to live the life of a Muslim woman.

A distraught Louise decided to stay calm "and play the game" with her husband. She agreed to his demands and a few days later made her way to Syria, where she was reunited with her daughter.

While in Syria, Louise was locked inside Mr Assad's family home until one day she and May were left alone in a taxi.

Louise seized the moment, grabbed her young daughter's hand, and fled. She paid €350 for another taxi to take them on the journey, through nine checkpoints, to Damascus.

There, after every legal route available to them failed, the pair paid people-smugglers to take them across sheer mountain faces to Lebanon.

"It was pitch dark," Louise said. "We climbed over mountains for hours.

"I don't understand how we made did it. We literally climbed up sheer mountain faces and back down inclines."

Although cut and bruised, the brave pair made it safely to the other side in Lebanon.

"We got down eventually and there was a 4x4 waiting for us. On the journey to a safehouse in Lebanon, May said to me, 'Mammy, there are loads of handguns on the floor.' I said: 'Don't touch anything, just look straight ahead'."

Now May is home Louise said she was "elated".

"I couldn't bear the thoughts of her having to stay in that country and live like that."

She did however say that little May was "traumatised" after her ordeal and long-term, to ensure her safety, she is considering a witness protection programme.

Irish Independent

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