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Irish Arab Spring fighter describes radicals in Syria

A DUBLIN man who fought during the Arab Spring in both Libya and Syria has spoken about meeting Islamic revolutionaries who justify attacks such as the atrocity at Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris.

Housam 'Irish Sam' Najjair (35), from Tallaght, also said the Paris attacks were connected with western powers' refusal to intervene in Syria and fight against Islamic State (IS).

Mr Najjair wrote the book Soldier for a Summer about his experiences in Libya.

In August 2011, he and the now famous Tripoli Brigade, a unit of the National Liberation Army of Libya, were the first revolutionaries to enter and subsequently secure the city and Martyr Square.

Intervention

After he returned from that conflict he decided to once again take up arms, this time in the Syrian civil war.

Mr Najjair is the son of a Libyan father and Irish mother who converted to Islam more than 30 years ago.

Speaking on RTE radio yesterday about his time in Syria, he spoke about jihadists he had met.

"This is radicalisation, it's extremism, it's taking any kind of scripture or any kind of belief to a far-right extreme," he said.

"I would say that yes, there is going to be a backlash because extremism is being allowed to flourish in these countries.

"The lack of intervention from western powers in places like Syria is causing ripples. I would feel that this is just one of those ripples, because there are a lot more moderates than there are radicals."

Mr Najjair said he had brushes with Islamic fundamentalist groups while he was in Syria in 2012, but it was before IS had launched its main assault.

He described such groups as secretive and cult-like and said he knew of people who had joined and were killed when they tried to leave.

"They don't open up or explain what they are trying to put across unless you are one of them," he said.

He explained that the fragile alliance of different factions in the Syrian revolution was born from a common enemy.

"The real enemy at the time was the regime themselves," he said.

"At that time, I did speak out in media outlets and I did explain that if the moderate people in Syria are not bolstered and supported by western intervention of some sort or another, these extremists will surge.

"Most of them are from abroad, they are not even Syrian."

hnews@herald.ie


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