A British man who received weapons training with Islamic State and was on the front line with the terror group carrying a Kalashnikov has insisted he is not a terrorist.
Shabazz Suleman, a former grammar school pupil from the Home Counties, now wants to return to the UK to “get on” with his life, and claims to have spent his time in Syria having fun in the terror group’s former de facto capital, Raqqa.
The 22-year-old from High Wycombe was merely “relaxing, hiding in Raqqa quietly, playing PlayStation or going around on bike rides – normal life in ISIS territory trying to evade ISIS checkpoints”, he says.
In an interview from a prison cell in Syria, he told Sky News: “I take responsibility. I was with ISIS, I was with a terrorist organisation. But I didn’t kill anyone, I hope I didn’t oppress anyone.
“I did have a Kalashnikov and a military uniform, but I didn’t hit anyone, I didn’t oppress anyone, if you understand. I was there with military police but like I said, I was in the office.”
Playing PlayStation and riding bikes: a British Jihadi describes “normal life” as a member of Islamic State pic.twitter.com/4rswQnMXMv
— Sky News (@SkyNews) October 30, 2017
Around half of the estimated 850 Britons believed to have gone to join the extremists are already thought to be back in the UK.
Last week, Max Hill, QC, the government’s watchdog on terrorism laws, said that teenagers who had “travelled [to join Islamic State] out of a sense of naivety, possibly with some brainwashing along the way” might not be prosecuted.
He claimed authorities “should be looking towards reintegration and moving away from any notion that we’re going to lose a generation thanks to this travel”.
Mr. Suleman disappeared while on a family holiday to Turkey three years ago, making his way to Islamic State territory.
But he said he became “disillusioned” with the terrorists within five months and after the recent capture of Raqqa, he ended up in the hands of the Free Syrian Army.
“I was there to defend the Syrians – honestly I came here for that first, but ISIS changed. Four or five months into ISIS I wanted to leave,” he said.
Presumably he'd rather face a prison cell here than a firing squad there… https://t.co/fpO0Zms1ub
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) October 29, 2017
“A caliphate is like a magnet – It attracts all the foreign fighters. If I get prosecuted, I get prosecuted – I guess it’s my destiny,” he added. “I’d regret it. I don’t want to spend more of my life in prison. I want to get on with my life.”
A spokesman for London’s Metropolitan Police said Mr. Suleman could expect to be investigated by police if he returns.
She said: “Everyone who returns from taking part in the conflict in Syria or Iraq must expect to be investigated… Any decision on whether to prosecute will be taken by the police and Crown Prosecution Service on a case by case basis.”