Isil sus­pects re­turned in pris­oner swaps face ex­e­cu­tion

The Daily Telegraph - - World news - By Josie En­sor in North­ern Syria

For­eign Is­lamic State sus­pects cap­tured by the UK’S al­lies in Syria and then ex­changed in se­cret pris­oner swap deals have been ex­e­cuted by ji­hadists as pun­ish­ment for de­fect­ing. Two of those in­volved in the deals, a woman from Ta­jik­istan and a French­man, were mur­dered shortly af­ter be­ing sent back to Is­lamic State of Iraq and the Le­vant (Isil) ter­ri­tory against their will, wit­nesses say.

The Daily Tele­graph re­vealed in June how hun­dreds of for­eign men, women and chil­dren de­tained by the Kur­dish­led Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces (SDF) were swapped in re­turn for Kur­dish fighters held by Isil.

Le­gal groups yes­ter­day ex­pressed con­cern that Isil sus­pects who were forcibly sent back to a bat­tle­field were later ex­e­cuted, say­ing it un­der­mined in­ter­na­tional law. One woman, named Si­tora, a 24-year-old from Ta­jik­istan whose sur­name is not known, was ex­e­cuted af­ter be­ing re­turned to Isil. She was cap­tured by the SDF last Novem­ber and sent to Roj camp for for­eign fe­male Isil sus­pects in north­ern Syria, along with two young chil­dren she had from two Rus­sian Isil fighters.

In March, the SDF cen­tral of­fice re­port­edly called up those in the camp who were from Rus­sia and cen­tral Asian states, telling them they would be taken back by their home coun­tries.

But Si­tora and her chil­dren, who were aged three and one, were in­stead taken by bus to Ha­jin, a town in eastern Deir Ez­zor prov­ince still un­der Isil con­trol.

A wit­ness said she was taken to a square in the town and pub­licly ex­e­cuted, an act in­tended to warn oth­ers think­ing of try­ing to flee the ever-dwin­dling “caliphate”.

“She looked very scared,” said Ahmed, a wit­ness who asked that his sur­name not be pub­lished. “She was killed with sev­eral oth­ers. They made a show of it.

“Isil was very happy to have all th­ese peo­ple back as it shows them to be stronger than they are.”

It is un­clear what has hap­pened to her chil­dren. In an­other case, an uniden­ti­fied French fighter of African de­scent was shot in the head in Ha­jin in early Septem­ber. The killing was filmed and sent out by the ji­hadists to send a stark mes­sage to oth­ers.

“He and any oth­ers who think they can es­cape the Is­lamic State, they should know we can catch them any­where,” the masked ex­e­cu­tioner is heard say­ing be­fore shoot­ing him and five Syr­ian fighters who tried to flee.

A British woman at Roj camp last week said women had un­til re­cently been taken out of the camps and not told where they were go­ing.

“They were taken out of here and never came back, but we heard they didn’t go home,” said Reema Iqbal, 30, from east Lon­don, who said there were ru­mours around the camp that many more than two had ac­tu­ally been ex­e­cuted.

She said she and other British women were wor­ried that they could face the same fate if the UK gov­ern­ment con­tin­ued to refuse to al­low them to re­turn.

“It is ter­ri­ble that peo­ple end up be­ing sent back to Isil and then get ex­e­cuted in the pub­lic square,” said Clive Stafford Smith, founder of le­gal ac­tion char­ity Re­prieve, who con­firmed the re­ports.

“The fault here does not lie with the Kurds, but with the fact that the West has aban­doned them with thou­sands of de­tainees, in­clud­ing 1,248 en­tirely in­no­cent chil­dren, with no sup­port,” he said, adding that the forcible re­turn of mi­nors raised se­ri­ous eth­i­cal ques­tions.

“What does it take to per­suade coun­tries like Bri­tain to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for our cit­i­zens? If we don’t, more in­no­cent peo­ple will die.”

The SDF is hold­ing thou­sands of for­eign Isil fighters and their fam­i­lies,

‘It is ter­ri­ble that peo­ple end up be­ing sent back to Isil and then get ex­e­cuted in the pub­lic square’

who were ei­ther cap­tured or sur­ren­dered dur­ing of­fen­sives on their for­mer strongholds in Raqqa and Deir Ez­zor. Kur­dish of­fi­cials have warned that they will not try for­eign sus­pects them­selves and will not hold them for­ever.

British and other Eu­ro­pean au­thor­i­ties have re­fused to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their cit­i­zens held in pris­ons and camps around north­ern Syria, leav­ing six British men, four women and at least nine chil­dren in le­gal limbo.

The SDF is fight­ing Isil in the last of its ter­ri­tory in the towns of Soussa and Ha­jin. Last week they suf­fered a ma­jor set­back af­ter Isil counter-at­tacked dur­ing a sand­storm, killing and cap­tur­ing dozens of SDF fighters.

The cap­ture of large num­bers of their fighters raises the prospect that the SDF could once again trade sus­pects in their cus­tody for the re­turn of their com­rades.

A pic­ture that re­port­edly shows Isil fighters with mem­bers of the Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces taken pris­oner last week

Roj camp in north­ern Syria, where 370 women from 46 coun­tries are held as Isil sus­pects

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