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Tuesday 22 October 2019

Desperate mother Lisa Smith frantically tried to get cash to escape Isil Syria

Videograb captured by an ITV cameraman of a woman believed to be Lisa Smith giving water to a young child in a camp in Syria
Videograb captured by an ITV cameraman of a woman believed to be Lisa Smith giving water to a young child in a camp in Syria
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

Irish Isil bride Lisa Smith made several attempts to secure cash through money transfers to fund her journey home with her two-year-old child.

With Kurdish-led forces closing in on the last enclave held by Isil in northern Syria, Ms Smith tried frantically to plan her escape with the help of family members over the past month.

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She was hoping to travel back into Europe through Turkey but was then intercepted and detained in US custody.

It is now expected that Department of Foreign Affairs officials will make further contact with the US government through diplomatic channels to confirm their position on Ms Smith's fate.

The US is likely to favour handing back Ms Smith, who is from Dundalk and has been travelling on an Irish passport, to the Irish authorities.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has already outlined his view that Ireland should not expect our citizens to be somebody's else problem and said he was "very loath" to revoke anyone's citizenship, provided they were a citizen by right or had acquired their citizenship appropriately.

Lisa Smith (37), seen third from the right, who served in the Irish Air Corps pictured with the then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern whom she served while working on the Government jet. Picture: Collins
Lisa Smith (37), seen third from the right, who served in the Irish Air Corps pictured with the then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern whom she served while working on the Government jet. Picture: Collins

Gardai have been in contact with Ms Smith's family in Dundalk but said they could not yet confirm officially to them that the Irish citizen in custody was the former member of the Defence Forces.

Officers from military intelligence and the Garda security and intelligence section have been tracking her movements for the last 18 months but were not certain until recently of her exact whereabouts.

However, briefings supplied last week from the US made it clear that she was desperate to leave the Isil enclave and return home.

As an Isil bride, officers consider Ms Smith to be a sympathiser rather than a fighter with Isil and this is expected to be taken into account when she is questioned after her return to Ireland.

A decision will be made after fuller inquiries have been carried out on whether her activities in Syria since she arrived there in 2015 would leave her open to criminal prosecution here.

Ms Smith left the Defence Forces in 2011 after converting to Islam. She had served as a private with a transport battalion and was also a flight attendant on the Government jet in the Air Corps.

Lisa Smith pictured living in Dundalk in 2011. Photo: Tom Conachy/Independent.ie
Lisa Smith pictured living in Dundalk in 2011. Photo: Tom Conachy/Independent.ie

After the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces arrested Alexandr Ruzmatovich Bekmirzaev in December, it was estimated by senior intelligence officers here that half a dozen Irish passport-holders were still in Isil-controlled areas of Syria.

Bekmirzaev has denied claims that he was active with Isil but while he lived in Dublin, the Belarus native was regarded by Garda anti-terrorism officers as "a senior player" among Isil supporters operating in this country.

Around 30 people left Ireland and travelled to Syria and Iraq, not all of them to join Isil. But it is believed that many of them are now dead or have travelled to other 'theatres of war' such as in the Philippines, the Horn of Africa and North Africa.

Neither Ms Smith nor her family have yet contacted any government department but the Department of Foreign Affairs has made it clear that it will offer her full consular assistance, if she seeks it.

Ms Smith gives an interview to ITV in Syria this week. Picture: Independent.ie
Ms Smith gives an interview to ITV in Syria this week. Picture: Independent.ie

Ms Smith's family have also denied she was involved with Isil.

Ms Smith is now likely to be the subject of negotiations with the US government about what will happen to her from here.

Sunday Independent

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