Two Americans, Including a Teacher, Captured in Syria Fighting for Islamic State

A member of the Iraqi forces walks past a mural bearing the logo of the Islamic State (IS) group in a tunnel that was reportedly used as a training centre by the jihadists, on March 1, 2017, in the village of Albu Sayf, on the southern outskirts of Mosul. Iraqi …
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Sunday announced the capture of two American citizens fighting for the Islamic State. The SDF named the two men and provided photographs. The Pentagon would not immediately confirm the report, describing it as “open source” unverified information.

According to the SDF, one of the Americans is Warren Christopher Clark, 34, of Houston, Texas, also known as “Abu Mohammad al-Ameriki” among ISIS forces (“Al-Ameriki” is a surname often given to Americans recruited by terrorist groups). 

The SDF said it found a resume and cover letter he sent to the Islamic State seeking a position as an English teacher. The Washington Post quoted records from Washington University’s Program on Extremism that indicated Clark traveled to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iraq seeking work as an English teacher and was employed in that capacity at the University of Mosul when he sent his resume to ISIS.

Earlier reports cited by the Post described Clark as hailing from a “middle-class churchgoing family with ties to the military.” He is said to have converted to Islam in 2004 and become radicalized online.

The New York Times found Clark is a graduate of the University of Houston and once worked as a substitute teacher for the Fort Bend Independent School District in Sugar Land, Texas. Noting that his work history in Texas appeared to end in June 2015, the Times theorized he “probably joined the Islamic State after that.”

Clark’s father, however, insisted his son is a “humanitarian” without an “evil thought in his mind about hurting anyone” and would not become involved with a group like ISIS.

The SDF said Clark and another American named Zaid Abed al-Hamid, a.k.a. “Abu Zaid al-Ameriki,” were captured along with foreign fighters of other nationalities in an assault on the last ISIS-dominated territory in northern Syria.

The SDF called the operation Jazeera Storm and said the assault was launched in response to reports that ISIS terrorists were preparing to attack a large mass of civilians as they fled from the war zone.

Another of those foreign fighters was reportedly an Irish citizen named Alexandr Ruzmatovich Bekmirazev, 45, an immigrant from Belarus who resided in Dublin until he departed for Syria in 2013. The Irish government took the report seriously, indicated it was aware of an individual matching the SDF’s description of Bekmirazev, and promised the prisoner would be given access to consular services if his capture is confirmed.

The SDF reported capturing two Pakistani citizens in addition to the two Americans and the Irish citizen taken into custody.

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