Friday 30 September 2016

Irish volunteer reveals horrific aftermath of Isil terror tactics

Robin Schiller

Published 15/08/2016 | 02:30

Dr Calvin James in Syria
Dr Calvin James in Syria

An Irishman is on the frontline in the battle against Isil as he deals with the aftermath of suicide bombings, gun attacks and roadside bombings.

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Calvin James (38), from Dublin, has been in Syria for the last five months, where he has witnessed first hand the death and destruction caused by the terror group.

Calvin James with other volunteers in Syria
Calvin James with other volunteers in Syria

He was at the scene in Qamishli last month when two separate suicide bombings claimed over 60 lives. He described the terrible scenes of lifeless bodies that were caught underneath the rubble following the attack.

Mr James had another scare just days after the deadly suicide bombing when another terrorist attempted to detonate a vest armed with explosives. Luckily, the bomb failed to explode.

He is among a group of 30 people serving a 100km radius, with only 70 doctors and a handful of ambulances covering three million people in the Rojava region.

Mr James explained: "I've been in Rojava and as far as I'm aware I'm the only Irish person in the region. I've been to Syria and Iraq several times before.

"When the civil war happened and Isil came to be, I couldn't stay at home and watch it any more.

"I was a social care worker at home and came out to offer my services in any way I could. When I got out to Syria, there were enough ambulances but not enough personnel and they were really short-staffed so they started training me up as a medic. That might sound a bit daft, but they don't have the people.

"We've very few people doing this. In our service, there are 20 people serving a 100km radius and only a couple of ambulances. For the whole of Rojava region, there are only 70 doctors for around three million people."

Reclaimed

Calvin is now based in Manbij City, which was previously 80pc-controlled by Isil. It was the terror group's third most important city after Raqqa and Mosul.

However, this weekend the city was reclaimed by rebel fighters.

Mr James said: "My work is spread out around a whole different number of services. One day I could be driving, the next I could be in the hospital.

"I'm now in Manbij City, where I'm currently taking and driving an ambulance.

"Isil, it was their third most important city after Raqqa and Mosul, there are a lot of casualties and a lot of dead out there at the moment, it's like a meat grinder.

"There have been several car bombs in Qamishli and several suicide bombings targeting police and military because they're the main points.

"When something like this happens, you either go to the scene to help in any way you can or you go to the hospital.

"You don't really have time to process anything out here. Around three weeks ago, several friends got wounded but not many have died. The more time you spend out here, you do get desensitised."

However, Mr James is now contemplating returning to Ireland.

He said: "I have my own initiatives back home and a lot of friends have been pressuring me to come home to raise funds for my own cause. The original plan was to stay for six months and the six months are now up, so the plan is to head home eventually."

Irish Independent

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