Syrian group claiming to hold Lisa Smith attempts to sell interviews with her

Dundalk woman and her child are believed to be in custody of Turkish-backed militia

Lisa Smith. Photograph: BBC

Lisa Smith. Photograph: BBC

 

A group claiming to have custody of Irish Islamic State supporter Lisa Smith and her child is attempting to sell interviews with her to media outlets, The Irish Times understands.

Ms Smith (38) and her two-year-old daughter are believed to have escaped from the Ain Issa camp last weekend where she was being detained with about 950 other wives and children of Islamic State fighters.

The women and children fled the camp after it came under attack from Turkish warplanes as Turkey’s military invaded northern Syria seeking to drive back the mainly Kurdish Syrian Defence Force (SDF).

The Department of Foreign Affairs does not know the current location of Ms Smith but is aware of reports that she is in the custody of a group called the Syrian National Army (SNA), also known as the Free Syrian army, which is fighting on the side of Turkish forces.

The SNA is made up of various factions including Islamic extremists and soldiers who defected from the Syrian military.

Sources say the department has been made aware that a person claiming to represent the group has contacted media outlets, including at least one media outlet in Ireland, offering to sell an interview with Ms Smith for a “substantial” sum of money.

It is understood the Irish media outlet refused to pay over any money. A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman declined to comment on the issue on Wednesday.

According to the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Ms Smith and her child are being held in a village on the outskirts of Tel Abyad along with UK woman, Tooba Gondal (25), who is alleged to have acted as a recruiter for the Islamic State, also known as Isis.

The village, which is located on the Syria-Turkey border about 45km from Ain Issa, was recently taken by Turkish-backed forces.

Ms Smith, Ms Gondal and their children were picked up by FSA fighters after fleeing fighting in the camp, it said.

The Telegraph reported that Ms Gondal has told her family in London that she and her two children are being held with Ms Smith in a “safehouse” after fleeing violence in the Ain Issa camp.

The SNA may hand Ms Smith over to the Turkish authorities directing their operations for trial or deportation to Ireland.

If Ms Smith and her child are brought to Turkish territory it would make it significantly easier for the Irish authorities to facilitate her return. However the Department of Foreign Affairs are concerned the group may instead demand a ransom for Ms Smith and her child. Factions of the SNA have a history of demanding large ransoms for prisoners, including westerners.

The Irish government has previously said Ms Smith will be permitted to return home but a Department of Foreign Affairs source said travel documentation has yet to be issued to facilitate this.

Last week, the Garda confirmed Ms Smith is being investigated under the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005, which prohibits membership of domestic and foreign terrorist groups.

As a former member of the Irish Air Corps, Ms Smith was a flight attendant on the government jet, and worked as a driver for senior officers.