Imminent return of Lisa Smith: Treat Irish IS fighter with caution

Imminent return of Lisa Smith: Treat Irish IS fighter with caution
Lisa Smith. Image: ITV

Lisa Smith, the former soldier who left Ireland to join IS in Syria and who was married to an IS fighter, is due back in Ireland in the coming days. Smith and her daughter are in a queue for deportation, as part of an effort by Turkey to expel foreign nationals with links to IS.

While she and her child should undoubtedly be treated humanely, she should also be treated with suspicion, pending a thorough investigation into her links with a terrorist organisation.

She needs to be questioned extensively for a number of reasons. As well as being a terror suspect herself, Ms Smith is believed to hold key intelligence on IS returnees to Ireland. Despite her reported pleas that she is no longer associated with IS or with any other radical Islamic group, her actions, so far, show that she cannot be trusted. It must not be forgotten that this is a woman who has undergone extensive military training in the Irish Defence Forces and, while not of high rank, she was trusted enough to be employed on the government jet.

She then converted to Islam and later travelled to Syria during the Syrian Civil War to join IS, reportedly marrying — and later divorcing — no less than four Muslim men, among them IS fighter Sajid Aslam, who, she claims, is the father of her daughter.

Aslam previously fathered several children with Lorna Moore, a Muslim convert originally from Omagh, Co Tyrone, who was jailed in Britain in 2016 for assisting him to fight with IS in Syria. Moore had been planning to take her three young children to Syria, including an 11-month-old baby.

More than 5,000 Europeans are estimated to have left their homes and gone to Iraq and Syria to fight for IS, according to an EU’s Radicalisation Awareness Network report. That figure could be much higher as authorities do not have exact figures for how many people joined IS. According to Gilles de Kerchove, the EU’s top counterterrorism official, as many as 1,500 have returned to Europe, including many women and children.

Smith claims she never participated in any fighting, but gardaí will be scrutinising this, as photos emerged of her posing with weapons in Tunisia.

We could do worse than follow the example of Germany, where, in recent days, a woman believed to have been a member of IS has been banned from leaving the country and has had her passport confiscated. Smith could face charges under the 2015 Criminal Justice Act for terrorist offences, but the final decision to prosecute will ultimately be a matter for the DPP.

US president Donald Trump recently urged European allies to take back more than 800 captured IS foreign fighters and put them on trial. His vice-chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Selva, offers a chilling reflection: “The thought that these foreign fighters, who have participated in this fight now for over two years, will quietly leave Syria and return to their jobs as shopkeepers in Paris, in Brussels, in Copenhagen, is ludicrous.”

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