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Who is the Irish man held in Iraq after battling Islamic State?

Joshua Molloy (24) detained after a spell fighting with Kurdish forces

An image of Joshua Molloy from his Facebook page

“A nice young chap” is how postmistress Mary Brennan describes Joshua Molloy, the 24-year-old from Ballylinan, Co Laois, who is currently detained in Iraq after a spell fighting with Kurdish forces opposing Islamic State in Iraq.

“The family are well-respected,” said Mrs Brennan. “They lived in England for a number of years but Anne-Marie [Molloy’s mother] is from here. Declan [Molloy’s father] is from Dublin, I think.”

The Molloys have a daughter, Eloise – “a lovely girl”, says Mrs Brennan.

The children were educated locally and after school, Joshua enlisted in the British Army’s Royal Irish Regiment where he served for your years.

Subsequently, and apparently fired up at the lack of external governmental resolve to tackle Islamic State, he joined Kurdish forces trying to roll them back in parts of Syria and northern Iraq.

Several borders

Mark Campbell, a British-based Kurdish rights campaigner, describes foreign fighters helping the Kurds, an ethnic group whose people live in northern Syria and Iran and eastern Turkey, straddling several borders in the region, as humanitarians.

“Like all the foreign fighters helping the Kurds, Joshua watched the rise of Islamic State and had seen governments in general didn’t seem to be doing a lot,” he said. “You can compare [his volunteering] to Spain and the fight against fascism [in the 1930s]. There is very much that sort of international solidarity[the for Kurds].”

Molloy and two comrades in arms, Joe Ackerman, also an ex-British soldier, and Jac Holmes, who apparently had no military training before enlisting, were trying to return home.

According to Campbell, they had spent six or seven months with the Kurdish People’s Protection Forces (YPG) in Rojava in northern Syria.

They had been fighting Isis which had gained ground from central Iraq, north into the Kurdish region and west into Syria.

Apparently by arrangement, the three went to the Semelka Gate border crossing between Kurdish Syria and Kurdish Iraq, the area having been liberated from Isis by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) forces of Northern Iraq.

“I think there was some support group of the peshmerga [Kurdish fighters] who were going to come to help them but, for whatever reason, they never turned up,” said Campbell.

Another route

“In the end, they travelled down another route, and were awaiting a contact to travel on to Sulaymaniyah [in Iraqi Kurdistan] to get a plane from there to come home.”

In the event, they were detained by forces loyal to the Kurdish Democratic Party, which has close ties with Turkey, and are being held, according to Campbell, in Irbil.

Campbell’s own involvement with the Kurds dates from the mid-1990s when he travelled to the region as a freelance photographer and became committed to their case for national self-determination.

He is a point of contact between the Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq and foreigners who go there to help them.

“Obviously the parents [of the three] are extremely worried for the boys and I appeal, on their behalf, for their release. They have only been trying to help the Kurdish people against Isis.”

The last Campbell heard from them was via WhatsApp last Wednesday.

“The British government have apparently been in contact with Joe, Josh and Jac and have offered consular assistance,” he said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is monitoring events and says it stands ready to assist.

Molloy’s Facebook page, which includes a photograph of him holding what appears to be a captured Isis flag, contains many messages of support from friends and admirers of his action.