Monday 14 October 2019

Family sent €800 to help Irish Isil bride Lisa Smith return home

Former soldier sent texts in desperate bid to flee refugee camp

Diplomatic help: Lisa Smith served in the Defence Forces
Diplomatic help: Lisa Smith served in the Defence Forces
Lisa Smith. Picture: Tom Conachy
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

The former Irish soldier who moved to Syria to live with Islamic terrorists was wired €800 by her family in recent months after she told them she wanted to come home.

Lisa Smith was sent €300 before Christmas and €500 last month by her family in Dundalk to help her escape the war-torn region with her two-year-old son, said Peter Fitzpatrick, an independent TD for Louth.

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He said Ms Smith spoke to family members by phone around February 12, when she confirmed she received the €500.

She texted a week later on February 19, again indicating her desire to leave, said Mr Fitzpatrick. The family heard nothing more until earlier this month when an ITV news crew interviewed her in a refugee camp in Northern Syria along with the families of other Isil fighters.

As to Ms Smith's current beliefs, Mr Fitzpatrick said: "All the family knows is that she had been in contact with them for the last two years telling them that she wants to come home."

He added that they have heard nothing since her text message last month.

The TD, who like Ms Smith is a former member of the Defence Forces, said he met her family last Monday after they reached out to him through a friend. He said after hearing their concerns, he contacted Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney from the Smith family home.

The minister then spoke to the family on the phone. "The family were delighted to speak to him," as up to then they had "no contact with anyone" other than gardai.

Mr Fitzpatrick, who met the family again yesterday, said they have "placed their faith" in the Department of Foreign Affairs. The department is engaged in ongoing diplomatic efforts to secure Ms Smith's release from the camp in Northern Syria.

However, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said last night that her identity has not been confirmed and the government has received no request for consular assistance from her.

The fate of Ms Smith has sparked heated debate after she was interviewed by an ITV news crew in the camp controlled by Kurdish-led forces.

The report said she had fled Baghouz, Isil's last stronghold, with her son. The Taoiseach has indicated that Ms Smith will not be stripped of her citizenship and can return to Ireland but has promised that there will first be a security assessment of her activities.

Lisa Smith converted to Islam in 2011 when she was in still in the Air Force, serving as an attendant on the government jet. Security sources believe that she was radicalised online in Dundalk and that she left Ireland in 2014 or 2015 to live in the Isil caliphate.

She is believed to have married an Isil fighter and had a son with him.

Speaking about the case last week, Leo Varadkar said: "Going to Syria or going to live in what was called Islamic State is not in itself a crime. So we will need to carry out an investigation. I know the authorities there will want to interrogate her. But it's very possible that she wasn't a combatant," he said.

Sunday Independent

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