A suspected Islamic State fighter who was captured by Kurdish forces is a citizen of the Republic of Ireland who was known to Irish police.
According to reports, the 45-year-old male is originally from Belarus but gained Irish citizenship after having lived and worked in Dublin for a number of years.
Named by the Irish Independent as Alexandr Ruzmatovich Bekmirzaev, it is believed that he left for the Middle East in 2013.
Irish taoiseach (prime minister) Leo Varadkar told media on Monday, “I’ve only heard about that in the last short while.
“The information we have is that an Irish citizen has been taken into custody in Syria.
“We don’t know the details of that so I can’t comment on it in any detail, but what I can say is that any Irish citizen around the world is entitled to consular assistance and will get that.”
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Broadcaster RTÉ reported Sunday night that Garda sources said that the suspected captured militant was known to the Irish police, the Gardaí, in the context of monitoring individuals suspected of being sympathetic to radical causes.
The Independent reports he had been providing logistical support to radicals connected to Islamic State and was described by one Gardaí officer as “a lot more than a sympathiser.”
Security and anti-terrorism specialist Declan Power said it was concerning that a man apparently known to Garda Siochana’s crime and security branches had obtained Irish citizenship, which would also grant him the right to move freely through the rest of the European Union.
“We can’t be complacent about the reach of extremism into this State from other locations. It’s a wake-up call for us not to be complacent,” Mr Power said.
Bekmirzaev and four others, two Americans and two Pakistanis, were captured December 30th by the Syrian Democratic Forces, pictured above fighting Islamic State in the battle to retake Raqa in 2017, with details only being released on Sunday.
The SDF said in a statement that during operation Jazeera Storm, which aims to liberate the last regions under Islamic State occupation, they had detected “a group of terrorists who had been preparing to attack the civilians who were trying to get out of the war zone in masses.”
“Following long-term technical and physical follow-up, an operation against the cell was carried out by our forces,” they added.
“As a result of the operation, five terrorists originally from the United States, Ireland, and Pakistan were captured.”
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