SYRIA HERO IN TERROR THREAT
Kevin, 25, could even be jailed for battling Islamic State
An ex- soldier who helped clear Islamic State out of Raqqa could face terror charges after returning to Scotland.
Kevin Benton spent eight months on the frontline of the war on terror in Syria. He was shot twice, narrowly avoided being blown up by a suicide bomber and saw comrades killed.
The 25-year-old returned to his home in Kelso, Roxburghshire, last month – and he was interrogated for hours by counter-terrorism detectives on his arrival at Heathrow.
Now he is waiting to find out if he will face charges under the Terrorism Act which could see him jailed for travelling to the warzone.
Kevin, who served for four years in the Royal Regiment of Scotland, joined the ranks of Kurdish militia YPG. They work with the Syrian Democratic Forces, whose mission to overthrow IS was backed by US-led special forces and air strikes.
The Y PG are not a banned terror group – but they are closely allied to Kurdish PKK, who are.
Kevin said: “As soon as the plane landed, the transport police were there and I was arrested under the Terrorism Act. I was questioned in the office for a couple of hours.
“They gave me a pat-down search and went through all my stuff. I had prayer beads but it’s because I’m a fidget and I like to play with them.
“The officers asked if I was religious or political. “I just explained the reasons I was out there and what I’d actually been doing from start to finish.
“They took my phone and went through my photos and videos.
“Then officers contacted counterterrorism police because of a video of me on a patrol.
“In it, I turn round and there’s a suicide car completely covered in steel coming towards us.
“You can’t see anything, just my rifle. I fire three shots then run down an alleyway and two minutes later, it blows up.
“That’s seen as a terrorist act – that’s why they contacted them.
“I was taken from the airport to a police station just outside Heathrow where I was stripsearched and questioned a bit more.”
Kevin arrived home on October 19 after pleas to return from mum Pamela and dad Iain. He was released on bail on the condition that he did not leave the UK and stayed at home with his parents. He was due to return to London tomorrow to find out whether he would be formally charged. But late last week, he was told his case was being referred to Police Scotland. Kevin now faces an anxious wait as they continue their investigation – but he said: “I’m quite happy in a way that the police are taking this seriously.
“I’d prefer it if this happened to everyone because then I know the police are doing their job and I feel safe in my own country.
“I went to help and I want to help the police too. I will tell them the truth – anything they need to know.”
Kevin decided to join the YPG after seeing Netflix documentary The Brits
I had prayer beads because I fidget – police asked if I was religious
Battling Isis. He said: “I was watching it thinking, ‘ These boys aren’t even soldiers. I know I could be helpful.’
“Two weeks later, I was there. I joined the YPG International.
“I just joined them as a bod – I wasn’t going to do anything special – but then I saw them training and thought they were guys who were going to die.
“I stepped up and helped with the training – how to clear rooms properly, how to approach a building, how to scan your horizons, medical training, how to drive – all things I learned through the Army and close protection.
“None of the guys there were soldiers, they were just people who cared.”
Kevin and his fellow fighters spent their nights clearing the streets of Raqqa of booby traps and pushing forward to reclaim IS territory.
He was almost killed several times – including once where he got shot in the arm and the leg in an IS ambush.
Others weren’t so lucky – former IT worker Jac Holmes, of Bournemouth, died while clearing landmines in Raqqa last month. Kevin said: “I saw three friends killed when I was out there and Jac was killed recently.
“Jac was in the sniper team and I was in the pushing team so we would be in the same area and see each other a lot.
“The westerners always spoke to each other. It was hard to hear he died.”
Despite the carnage in Raqqa, Kevin said he was never really scared.
He added: “I loved being there. There were times when I was nervous but I would sing songs f rom the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack while I worked.
“I’ve been to Afghanistan and Sierra Leone – I have seen a lot of death.
“I saw some horrif ic injuries in Raqqa but there were also some really horrible scenes with people being forced from their homes into refugee camps.
“The YPG do the peace sign, whereas IS do a one-finger salute up to Allah.
“Some really young kids copied IS because they were brainwashed – and their parents were grabbing their hands and trying to make them do the peace sign instead.
“People there didn’t have an option, they’d been stuck with IS and needed to live by their rules or be killed.
“When I arrived, there were huge refugee camps. When I was leaving, there were none. Everybody went back to their homes. It was amazing to see.
“I saw a woman rip her burka off, she was buzzing. Another older woman gave me her gold bracelet.
“She was crying with happiness, singing and dancing in the streets. It was unbelievable to watch.”
A spokesman for New Scotland Yard said: “A 25-year-old man was arrested at Heathrow Airport on 17 October.
“He was stopped under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act at the airport after disembarking a f light from Cairo, Egypt. He was subsequently arrested under section 5 of the Terrorism Act.
“He was later released under investigation.”
CASUALTY US pal Nick Warden was killed BROTHERS IN ARMS Kevin Benton with a Syrian Democratic Forces unit SUSPECT Kevin could face charges
MEDIC First Aid-trained Kevin cleans an SDF fighter’s wound WORLDS APART Kevin at home with his mum Pamela and, above right, clearing Raqqa of IEDs