x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 October 2017

British barrister with a taste for fast cars revealed as ISIL soldier in Raqqa

The 39-year-old Briton describes the horrors inside the ruins of Raqqa after leaving a successful legal career to travel to Syria

The carnage of the frontline in Raqqa, Syria. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
The carnage of the frontline in Raqqa, Syria. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

A Briton believed to be among the last few hundred ISIL fighters in Raqqa has been identified as a successful former barrister who drove a Porsche.

The fighter – who called himself Abu Adam Al Britani – released two recordings which he claimed were designed to “wake up” Muslims to the “ruthless violations” by the US-backed forces in the group’s final strongholds within the city, according to London-based academic Shiraz Maher who heard the messages.

In the first 72-minute message, the fighter said that Raqqa was completely encircled with the frontline one kilometre from his front door. Kurdish-led fighters – who hold 80 per cent of the city - are preparing for a final offensive against the former de facto capital of ISIL.

In the recordings - posted on encrypted messaging app Telegram – the Briton railed against US-backed forces and said that its bombing was “butchering Muslims”. He described how stray cats were feeding on the bodies of the dead.

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The fighter gave few identities to his identity on the tape but was named at the weekend weekend as Yaser Iqbal, a married lawyer from Birmingham, who moved to Syria with his wife and young son, according to the Mail on Sunday. He practised as a barrister in London before running a series of firms specialising in immigration law, it said.

The British authorities said that some 850 Britons have travelled from the UK to join the ranks of ISIL in Syria and Iraq. Counter-radicalisation efforts to prevent the exodus of disaffected young Britons has focused on the young and marginalised who were seen as most at risk from the influence of extremists.

Al Britani’s background appeared different to most other foreign fighters. He said on the recording that he did not follow the pattern of most foreign militants who had travelled to Syria. He said that he used to earn more in one day, than most people earned in a month.

“I was not a loser before I came to Syria,” he said in the message cited by the Mail on Sunday. “I had a Porsche, I was doing very well in my life.

“I was looking forward to saving up to buy a villa and a Lamborghini. But God made me leave all this rubbish behind and come to Syria for the afterlife.”

He is believed to have initially moved to Saudi Arabia after leaving Britain four years ago, worked on immigration matters and owned a Porsche, according to a neighbour cited by the newspaper.

The lawyer had previously contributed to a book called “7/7 Muslim Perspectives” which contained reflections on the 2005 suicide bombings on the London transport network, which left 52 people dead.

“I am not pointing towards some conspiracy theory but what I am presenting is my view that the explanation as to the real perpetrators of 7/7 is not as simple as most people are led to believe,” he wrote, according to advanced publicity for the book.