Canadian spy Mohammed al-Rashid met British women in love with radical Islam at the Istanbul bus station. According to Begum herself, he “organized the whole trip to Syria.” “He knew everything, we knew nothing,” the young woman told reporters.
As he had for the entire eight months before, al-Rashid was in charge of the Turkish section of the smuggling route used by the Islamists to transport goods and people into the territory of the emerging caliphate. And at the same time, he informed Canadians about everything that was happening in it. “They told me at the Canadian embassy in Jordan that they would only grant me citizenship if I collected information about ISIS activities,” the man described, according to the BBC.
He therefore mapped the location of radicals from the West, identified the IP addresses of computers in Internet cafes of Islamists and took pictures of his conversations with jihadists. He copied the documents of the people he helped, and secretly filmed some of them. And he blamed Canada for sending Begum and her classmates to Syria.
He handed over copies of their passports to the embassy – while British police searched for the girls. However, by the time the information reached Canada, the girls were already at their destination. Al-Rashid was arrested shortly afterwards in Sanliurfa, Turkey, where he told the police that he was working with Western secret services. It was then that the British also apparently learned about his ties to the Allies.
A high-ranking officer of the agency involved in the fight against the Islamic State confirmed al-Rashid’s cooperation with Canada to British journalists. Journalist Richard Kerbaj writes about the fact that both the British and the Canadians covered up the role of the secret services in the escape of three young girls for years in the newly published book The Secret History of the Five Eyes: The untold story of the shadowy international spy network, through its targets, traitors and spies.
Through interviews with high-ranking politicians, including two former British prime ministers and people from the intelligence community, she tells the untold stories of modern-day espionage.
While the British and Canadian secret services and the British government have not commented on the media reports, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already promised to investigate the information. However, he defended the Canadian agents, saying that they “work in a dangerous world” and must be flexible. “In order to fight terrorism, they have to be creative in their approach, but they are also bound by strict rules,” he said.
Today, twenty-three-year-old Begum went to Syria with two friends Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana. Yago Riedijk, an Islamist eight years older than her, who came to Syria from the Netherlands, married her there. She gradually gave birth to three children, but all of them eventually died at an early age. Both of her friends are apparently dead.
Begum herself is stuck in a detention camp in northeastern Syria. In 2019, she lost her British citizenship and is officially prohibited from returning to the country. Her case has sparked a debate in the UK about how the authorities should treat returnees from Islamic State.
A young woman describes her long-held desire for adventure in Syria as “naive”. She said she just wanted to help the people there. And her family in Britain is still fighting to take her home. They claim that the then fifteen-year-old schoolgirl became a victim of smugglers and that the authorities did not take this into account.
The discovery that the girl was taken to the Islamic State by a Canadian spy will now come in very handy for the lawyers. Another court appearance in the case of Begum’s citizenship being revoked is planned for autumn. “The UK has international obligations regarding how we view a smuggled person and how we hold them accountable for their actions,” Begum’s lawyer Tasnime Akunjee said.
He says it is “shocking” that contact with Canadian agents was a key part of the smuggling operation. “After all, he is someone who is supposed to be our ally and protect our citizens and not smuggle British children into a war zone. Intelligence gathering appears to have been prioritized over children’s lives,” he added.
However, according to The Guardian, British authorities believe that despite her young age, Begum went to Syria voluntarily. And that it still poses a security risk.