Irish woman who joined Islamic State denies training young girls as fighters

Taoiseach says former Army member could possibly face criminal charges if she returns

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

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said former Islamic State bride Lisa Smith could possibly face criminal charges if she returns to Ireland.

Mr Varadkar indicated the Louth native would be subject to an investigation to ensure she posed no risk to the Irish public should her wish to return home be granted.

“That’s what we have assess,” he said, adding that security officials were also acutely aware that Ms Smith had a two-year-old daughter.

“We have to put the safety and interests of Irish citizens and people living in Ireland as the paramount concern in all of this and should she return she will be interviewed and there will be a security assessment done to make sure she is not a threat to others, but let’s not forget there is a child involved here too and that child is innocent and that child is Irish citizen.”

Ms Smith, originally from Dundalk in Co Louth, has said she was never involved in fighting since moving to the former caliphate and has denied training nine to 12 year-old-girls to use weapons.

“Bring these girls to my face, when we all sit here and they can see my face and we’ll speak and we will see the truth.”

Ms Smith is currently being held in the Al-Hawl displacement camp in Syria for the wives and children of Islamic State fighters. She moved to Syria, via Tunisia, in 2015 shortly after leaving the Air Corps where she worked as a flight attendant on the Government jet and as a driver to senior officers. She had also previously served with the Army as part of the 27th Infantry Battalion.

She served in the Army and Air Corps before converting to Islam and travelling to Syria about four years ago. She said she never picked up a gun during her time there and was not allowed to fight. She said she wanted “an actual caliphate, as in a Muslim country” but that she did not want “a brutality group”.

“Even if I wanted to go fighting, I tried to go fighting, they wouldn’t let me,” Ms Smith said in a BBC interview published on Friday. She said she never picked up a gun because she had to care for her daughter.

“I’m not a terrorist, I’m not out to kill anyone.”

Ms Smith said there was “a lot of brutality” under the Islamic State, also known as Isis, but refused to comment on the murder, rape and enslavement of Yazidi women.

“I don’t know who’s telling the truth and who’s lying. I’m not saying you might be lying, I’m saying I don’t know. I actually have to hear the truth on both sides and then I can make a decision.”

Not many people in Syria had known she had a military background, she said, adding that she had no intentions of hurting anyone.

“If you asked me am I going to hurt anyone? No. Have I any intentions to do anything? No. I’m just interested in trying to bring my daughter up and get her educated. I don’t even think I’m radicalised.

“All I know is I just came to an Islamic State and I failed. So, at the beginning I didn’t come to kill any one and when I was there I didn’t kill anyone and when I go home I’m not going to kill anyone. I just think I’m the same.”

The Government has indicated that Ms Smith and her daughter will be allowed to return home and that it is currently examining ways to get them out of Syria. Asked to comment on the case, the Department of Foreign Affairs said: “It is the department’s policy in providing consular assistance that commentary is not given on individual cases and the people or families involved.”