Irish man arrested in Iraq on way home after fighting Isis in Syria

Laois native Joshua Molloy in British army for four years but travelled to Syria in 2015

An Irish man who has been in Syria fighting against Isis has been arrested in Iraq for alleged entering the country illegally.

Joshua Molly, a 24-year-old from Co Laois, was detained on Friday in Iraq with two British men as they were making their way from Syria.

They had been fighting there with YPG, a Kurdish group that has taken up arms in an effort to resist the advances of Isis.

The Department of Foreign affairs in Dublin said it was aware of the case and was "working actively with partners on the ground to resolve it". It added that that Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan was "closely monitoring the situation".


The department has no presence in Iraq. Instead, its diplomatic staff in Saudi Arabia cover the region.

Because of that, and because Mr Molloy was arrested with two Britons with whom he was travelling, the British foreign office was expected to take the lead on the case.

This will include pressing for the men to be released by the authorities in Iraq.

Mr Molloy, a former pupil at Ardscoil na Trionoide in Athy, Co Kildare, was previously in the British army for four years. But he left and decided to travel to Syria to join the YPG Kurdish resistance group.

Combat experience

One of the two Britons he was with when arrested in Iraq on Friday – Joe Akerman (37) – was also once in the British army.

The other, Jac Holmes (23), left his home in Dorset in January of last year and though he had no military training he went to fight with the YPG.

Within four months he had been shot in a gun battle having made two efforts to get into Syria when his first was blocked and he was deported from Erbil airport in northern Iraq.

Mr Molloy and the two Britons are now believed to be detained in Erbil. They were arrested during a protracted effort to travel home for a break from fighting but having found the border with Iraq closed.

Mr Molloy's Facebook page includes a number of images shared in recent months clearly taken in a conflict zone. And in his most recent contribution to the page, he changed his profile photograph to one of himself dressed in military combat gear and holding what appears to be an Isis flag. The remains of a building can be seen in the background and when he is asked where it was taken, he replies Syria.

Another photograph posted on December 16th shows a man, which appears to be Mr Molloy, holding a firearm as he looks up from a trench.

Other earlier images on the page show him in British army uniform with colleagues at what looks like a ceremonial event.

And elsewhere he has shared photographs of himself with male and female friends camping and drinking in what looks like a music festival setting.

According to The Sunday Times, one of its correspondents in the region met Mr Molloy 12 months ago as he arrived in Syria.

The newspaper said he had joined the Syriac Christian battalion which is linked to the YPG and that he had left the British army because he had not seen much combat.

The Sunday Times added Mr Molloy told its correspondent in Syria last April he was partly motivated by a desire to fight Isis, but also wanted to be a war photographer and that he had told his family he was doing humanitarian work in Turkey.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times