Lisa Smith may have fled Syrian camp following Turkish assault

Former Irish soldier believed to be among hundreds of Isis supporters who escaped

July 6th, 2019: Plans to extract Lisa Smith, the suspected Isis supporter, from a camp in Syria two months ago were rejected by the Irish Government. Video: BBC

 

Lisa Smith, the former Irish soldier who became a supporter of Islamic State, may be among hundreds of women and children reported to have fled a detention camp in Syria against the backdrop of the Turkish military incursion.

Ms Smith (38) and her two-year-old child, as well as the Irish-born child of another Isis supporter, were all believed to be in the camp. Their whereabouts now are unclear.

Local media group Rojava Information Centre said 859 people had escaped from the foreigners section of the Ain Issa camp, where women and children linked to Isis were being held.

Isis had sent out calls for an uprising in the surrounding area to assist the “escape attempt”, the group said on Twitter. The Kurdish authorities also said the women and children had escaped from the camp.

However, the Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan has said the reports of Isis supporters escaping were false and aimed at provoking the United States and other western countries.

Lisa Smith, two to the right from then taoiseach Bertie Ahern, in 2008, when she was a member of the Defence Forces. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien
Lisa Smith, two to the right from then taoiseach Bertie Ahern, in 2008, when she was a member of the Defence Forces. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien

As well as Ms Smith and the child she gave birth to after moving to Syria, the Belarussian wife of the naturalised Irish citizen and Isis supporter Alexandr Bekmirzaev was also believed to be in the camp with the couple’s six-year-old Irish-born child. Mr Bekmirzaev is believed to be a prisoner in Syria but his exact whereabouts are unknown.

Asked about developments at Ain Issa, a spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said it would, as in all cases where Irish citizens abroad were in danger, engage with partners and provide consular advice and assistance.

“Given the particularly volatile and complex situation in the region, it would not be appropriate to comment on specific cases or any possible course of action.”

Last week, the gardaí confirmed that both Ms Smith and Mr Bekmirzaev are being investigated under the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005, which prohibits membership of domestic and foreign terrorist groups.

During her time with the Air Corps, Ms Smith worked as a flight attendant on the Government jet, and as a driver for senior officers.

Turkey has said its attack on northern Syria, which began last week, is designed to create a safe zone along the border and that its sole target is Kurdish fighters whom they say are “terrorists”.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were supported by US troops in their battle against Isis in Syria. Turkey launched its military incursion after the US president Donald Trump spoke on the phone with Mr Erdogan and subsequently announced the withdrawal of US troops from the area.

Lisa Smith on the extreme right of picture as then taoiseach Bertie Ahern thanks members of the Aer Corps before boarding the Government jet in 2008. Photograph: Collins Dublin
Lisa Smith on the extreme right of picture as then taoiseach Bertie Ahern thanks members of the Aer Corps before boarding the Government jet in 2008. File photograph: Collins Dublin

There were reports from Ain Issa that a small number of US troops that had been in the town had withdrawn at the weekend.

The SDF has warned that the guards in camps that hold up to 100,000 Isis fighters, supporters, wives and children, including many foreigners, will be moved to fight the Turkish incursion. The organisation has also said the Turkish incursion could result in the revival of Isis.