Revealed: How jihadi bride trapped in refugee camp went from Irish air force to loyal member of the ISIS caliphate after attending a local mosque and being radicalised online
- Lisa Smith, 37, is living in the al-Hol refugee camp with her two-year-old child
- She was one of hundreds of ISIS women and children to flee group’s last holdout
- Pleading to return she said prison in Ireland would be no worse than life in Syria
A former member of the Irish air force who fled to Syria to become an ISIS bride is begging to be allowed home – even if she faces prison.
Lisa Smith, 37, ‘was a party girl who enjoyed a good time’ before she went through a bad breakup, converted to Islam and became radicalised, friends say.
By 2013 she had converted to Islam in Dundalk where she apparently began attending the local mosque and bringing much younger relatives along for the worship.
Former life: Lisa Smith (circled) as an Irish soldier, accompanying then-Irish premier Bertie Ahern (left), in a picture taken at an aerodrome near Dublin in 2008
Her Facebook page is also said to have undergone a transformation, from ‘cute animal’ photos to pictures of her wearing a veil and posts appearing to praise jihadists.
Speaking to Extra.ie, Carol or ‘Karimah’ Duffy said she had tried to keep Smith from turning to radicalism.
The Muslim community in Ireland had ‘strongly rejected’ her extremism, she said, adding that she would have reported her if she had known the extent of her radicalisation.
Another friend told The Sun: ‘She was a party girl in the sense that she enjoyed going out, drinking and having a good time.
Lisa Smith, pictured left at the al-Hol refugee camp in Syria with her two-year-old daughter in recent days, and right before she fled Ireland to join ISIS, is pleading to return home and says prison in Ireland could be no worse than life at the camp
‘She was really sound, a really nice girl and someone who was always there for her friends.
‘She started suffering from depression after a bad break-up and she was introduced to Islam by a close associate. She really got into it and became really radicalised.’
Later she reportedly described Western culture as ‘dirty’ saying that her friends had been ‘brainwashed’ into standing by it.
Smith is believed to have left Ireland in 2013 or 2014, apparently travelling to Bizerte in Tunisia where she met her husband.
By 2016 photos from Syria had appeared on her Facebook page and rumours that she had travelled there via Turkey had reached her friends in Dundalk.
At the height of its power the Islamic State’s ‘caliphate’ stretched from Baghdad in Iraq all the way across north eastern Syria in the west
But now Smith has lost her husband and is living in the al-Hol refugee camp in Syria with her two-year-old daughter.
She fled the terror group’s last holdout in Baghouz and is one of hundreds of women and children at the camp.
Speaking to CNN, she said not everyone at al-Hol was a ‘terrorist’ and said prison in Ireland would be no worse than her life in Syria – as the Irish government confirmed it was trying to bring her home.
She said: ‘I think that people should just realise that all the people here are not terrorists. I want to go home.
‘I know they’d strip me of my passport stuff, and I wouldn’t travel and I’d be watched, but prisons? I don’t know. I’m already in prison.’
Smith was one of hundreds to flee Baghouz as ISIS lost its grip on its final patch of territory in eastern Syria.
Irish authorities have been drawing up plans to rescue the former soldier, originally from Dundalk, the Sunday Mirror reported.
Speaking today, Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney told RTE that Irish officials were meeting this afternoon to co-ordinate a response.
He said: ‘We want to look after Irish people and bring them home if they want to come home.
‘Of course, there’s heightened concern because there’s a two-year-old girl involved in this as well.
‘This is an unusual case because of her background in the last number of years, but the Taoiseach and I have made it very clear – she’s an Irish citizen.
‘She’s the responsibility of Ireland, and we have a responsibility towards her and in particular her daughter, and we will try to follow through on our responsibility and find a way to bring her home.’
The Irish government had not yet been able to establish direct contact but had been speaking to her family, he said.
A source told the newspaper about the possible rescue, saying: ‘The bottom line is she is an Irish citizen with a child in a very volatile, war-torn area.
‘She’s in a very vulnerable position and a decision has been made to bring her home.’
Smith is one of hundreds of ISIS refugees at the camp (pictured) who have fled the terror group as the last jihadi fighters were cleared out of Baghouz
Smith is one of hundreds of women and children to have fled Baghouz, the terror group’s last holdout in Syria. The wreckage of Baghouz is pictured yesterday
As a member of the Irish military Smith had flown around the world, and in 2008 was pictured on a trip with then-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
This month a former friend of Smith in Dundalk said Irish police had been guarding the town’s Muslim community in the wake of the Christchurch shootings.
Ms Duffy said Islamophobic thugs had recently made the link between Smith and Dundalk after the New Zealand terror attack, saying she had ‘packets of rashers thrown at my house’.
Current Irish PM Leo Varadkar has previously said stripping Smith of her citizenship was not the ‘right or compassionate thing to do’.
Lisa Smith’s plea to return home comes in the wake of the UK row over teenage ISIS bride Shamima Begum (pictured) who had her British citizenship removed
The Irish government’s language comes in contrast to British ministers’ refusal to allow teenage ISIS bride Shamima Begum to return home.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid revoked Begum’s passport after she said she wished to return to the UK with her newborn son, having already lost two children.
The weeks-old boy later died in a camp in northern Syria, with reports suggesting he had suffered from breathing difficulties.
Ms Begum, from Bethnal Green in east London, was 15 when she and two other schoolgirls went to join the terror group in February 2015.
Aged 19 and heavily pregnant, she resurfaced in a refugee camp last month and said she wanted to return to Britain as the self-styled caliphate collapsed.
International law forbids nations from making people stateless by revoking their only citizenship.
But British officials appear to believe that Ms Begum, who is of Bangladeshi heritage, holds dual citizenship and can therefore have her British nationality removed.
Under the 1981 British Nationality Act, any Briton can be deprived of their citizenship if it is ‘conducive to the public good’ – and they do not become stateless as a result.