Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 13 December 2019

Irish prime minister wants ISIS member and child to return home

Former Irish army soldier Lisa Smith is stuck in a Syrian displacement camp

Leo Varadkar said Lisa Smith would be investigated by police if she returned to Ireland. Reuters
Leo Varadkar said Lisa Smith would be investigated by police if she returned to Ireland. Reuters

Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar wants to bring home a former Irish army soldier turned ISIS member and her two-year-old child who is stuck in a Syrian displacement camp.

But Mr Varadkar warned that returning 37-year-old Lisa Smith was fraught with complications and said he would not risk the safety of Irish officials. Ms Smith on Thursday told a reporter she thought it was possible she would not be allowed to return to Ireland because of her military background.

Thousands of foreign ISIS members remain stranded in overcrowded, dingy camps after the capture of the terror group’s territory in Syria and Iraq. Repatriating citizens from the region is fraught with risk and many western governments are refusing to do so amid security risks.

“I want her child to be able to come home. I would never separate a mother and child, so yes, I want her to come home,” Mr Varadkar told RTE, Ireland’s national broadcaster.

“We do have to bear in mind that where she is now is a war zone, it is a conflict zone. We don’t want to put any of our personnel, whether military or diplomatic, at risk,” he said.

Ms Smith has insisted in interviews she has never taken part in violence and rejected claims she had helped train young girls to be fighters.

But Mr Varadkar said she would likely face a police investigation if she did return.

"We have to bear in mind the fact that there's a cost associated with this and there are lots of Irish citizens around the world who run into difficulty and we don't fly them home, we don't send the military out to bring people home from Australia or Singapore or Cairo… so we have to bare that in mind as well,” he added.

Ms Smith, a convert to Islam, left the Irish military in 2011 having served in the army and air corps. It is believed she went to Syria in 2015 before being captured by US-backed Syrian forces earlier this year.

On Thursday said she didn't think she would be going back to Ireland "ever."

"That's what I feel. That's what I think. They could be trying to make an example of me because I'm Irish and I'm military and I'm a woman," she said.

"To be honest I don't know what's going on. If it's just the Irish Government or its Europe as a whole because there's a big delay on all the countries at the moment."

Speaking to RTE from the Ain Issa camp in Syria, Ms Smith reiterated her belief that she is not a “radical” and is simply someone wanting to live under Islamic law.

"What is radical? I don't understand clearly. Someone needs to explain it to me properly because I don't understand what radical is. In terms of being a Muslim and wanting to live in a Muslim state, I don't understand how that is radical."

Ms Smith also said her husband, who died earlier this year, kept her inside most of the time and, as a result, she claimed she was shielded from some of ISIS's notoriously brutal acts.

"What did I do? I just joined the Islamic State and now I just become a monster. How? The British and the Irish fought for many years. If someone moved from England then what would they say about them?” she told RTE.

Ms Smith was confronted with – and denied - accusations she and a Tunisian woman had taught children how to fire weapons.

Updated: July 18, 2019 09:01 PM

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