Garda security units are expected to conduct a fresh review into a naturalised Irish citizen who was captured fighting for Islamic State (IS) in Syria.
Alexandr Ruzmatovich Bekmirzaev, one of five militants arrested by Kurdish forces, left Ireland in 2013 and, at the time, was considered a person of “significant interest” to Garda Security and Intelligence (S&I).
Gardaí believed he had gone to fight in Syria. His arrest and identification by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces is their first information on him since he left.
The S&I section, along with operational detectives from Counter Terrorism International, is expected to conduct a fresh review of his associations here.
“A fresh review will be carried out to establish, if possible, his movements in recent years and if he had any contact with Ireland,” said one security source.
Given that his own family left soon after Bekmirzaev departed, he might not have had communications with anyone here, said the source.
He said the Garda units will also review their files and establish who his jihadi associates were when he was here and determine if they are still in the country.
Gardaí will liaise with other EU security services in relation to the matter.
Bekmirzaev arrived in Ireland from Belarus in 2000. He lived in south Dublin and worked in the retail and security industries.
He married an Eastern European woman here and had an Irish-born son. He became a naturalised citizen in 2010.
Garda sources said suspicions about his extremism did not arise until after he was granted citizenship by the Department of Justice.
Sources said he had not been arrested for terrorist activities and had no convictions, including for crime.
Umar Al-Qadri, a Dublin-based imam, said he believed Bekmirzaev was radicalised after he acquired Irish citizenship.
The chairman of the Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council said where a naturalised citizen subsequently supports terrorism, “their Irish citizenship should be revoked”.
He told the Irish Examiner: “The State should send out in this way a clear message to potential terrorists.”
Dr Al-Qadri said he was concerned at the return of fighters from Syria and Iraq.
“I am concerned that we do not have a policy on how the Irish State will deal with foreign returned fighters,” he said. “I believe this development should initiate this important debate.”
Such fighters should face justice abroad and those who are Irish by birth should face justice here, said Dr Al-Qadri.
“Such people are dangerous and Ireland should learn from the approach by other European countries like Denmark on how to deradicalise them,” he said.