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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

‘Vicar of Baghdad’ cleared of funding ISIS

British priest Andrew White helped negotiate the release of several Yazidi women held as sex slaves by the group

Christians in Iraq celebrate Christmas in 2017. EPA/ALI ABBAS
Christians in Iraq celebrate Christmas in 2017. EPA/ALI ABBAS

A British priest has been cleared of wrongdoing following a two-year investigation into claims he helped finance ISIS by facilitating the payment of ransoms in exchange for the release of Yazidi sex slaves.

Andrew White, 54, became known as the Vicar of Baghdad for his time as the only Anglican cleric in Iraq for more than 10 years. He told The Times of his anger at receiving notification last month that a two-year investigation into his involvement in the release of Yazidi women held as sex slaves by ISIS had finally been dropped.

“If I was not a person of such profound, simple faith I would feel very angry but I know that anger does not really achieve anything,”

“I feel very hurt by it all, but it has not affected my faith.

“It is quite amazing. You would think that releasing sex slaves from ISIS was a good thing. But they [the police] were convinced that I could only have done it by paying for them,” he said.

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Read more:

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Canon White made use of contacts he made during reconciliation work with disaffected Sunnis in Iraq, some of who went on to join ISIS, to reach out to the terrorist group after it swept across almost a third of the country in 2014. The group is believed to have taken more than 7,000 Yazidi women hostage in those days, thousands of whom are still missing.

Although he acknowledged playing a role in the release of “six or seven” women, he denied paying money to secure release of any of the women.

Canon White was suspended by his own organisation, Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, in 2015, after an investigation was launched into allegations he had paid money to secure the release of some of the women.

He said that police raided his home around Christmas 2016, and interrogated him again in the days following last year’s terrorist attack at London Bridge.

It was only last month that he was informed by British police that the investigation had been dropped. “They came on the Monday after the [London Bridge] terrorist attack on the Saturday.

“I was thinking: Haven’t they got real terrorists to deal with?”