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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 October 2018

British pharmacist held in Syria over ISIS links

Anwar Miah, from Birmingham, claimed that he had been in Syria for nearly four years

Fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) at a funeral of four of their number killed in the battle for Hajin. AFP
Fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) at a funeral of four of their number killed in the battle for Hajin. AFP

A British pharmacist has been captured in Syria on suspicion of fighting for ISIS.

Mohammed Anwar Miah, 40, was captured last month near Hajin close to the Iraq border and is believed to be held by US special forces in northern Syria.

In a video released on social media, the blindfolded man with a British accent said he was from the central English city of Birmingham and claimed to have been in Syria for just less than four years.

He is filmed sitting in the back of a pick-up with his hands apparently tied behind his back. “I'm a doctor,” he said when asked if he worked for ISIS. “I'm a qualified pharmacist from the UK. I studied medicine and pharmacy.

“I've been working in the hospitals since I came.

“The areas that I worked in were controlled by Daesh… I can't do anything about that. All my work was with the public.”

The Times newspaper identified Mr Miah as one of two pharmacists struck off after a disciplinary hearing in 2014 concluded that they had “carelessly” dispensed methadone, falsified records and threatened unqualified staff with the sack.

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The pair created a “web of deceit” by forging the names of pharmacists on documents to make it look as if the pharmacies they ran were better staffed than they appeared to be. They were removed from the register for five years, according to reports of the case.

The detention of Mr Miah by US-backed Kurdish forces in Syria is the latest of a number of seizures of Europeans recent weeks amid continued uncertainty over their fate.

They include two Britons, Alexanda Kotey and Shafee El Sheikh, who were captured in February and suspected of being part of the ISIS execution squad known as The Beatles. The group is suspected of beheading at least 27 western hostages. The men were among 900 people from Britain who travelled to join the fighting in Syria, according to government figures.

Britain has shown no great willingness to have them returned to stand trial and some of them have had their citizenship revoked, including Kotey and El Sheikh.

“The international community needs to come up with a proper plan for what it’ll do with all these captured fighters,” said Shiraz Maher, director of the London-based International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation. “They need to be prosecuted properly and detained securely. Outsourcing this to the SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] is not the solution,” he said.

Research suggested that the average foreign fighter survived for only nine months and while Mr Miah said he was working as a doctor, it was “extremely likely” he was a fighter too, Mr Maher said in a tweet.

"One of the big questions and dilemmas for security agencies, after Islamic State lost Raqqa and Mosul, is: “who died? Who survived? How many got away and where are they now?"