'I broke no laws there': Canadian ISIS fighter wants help to return home
CTVNews.ca's Brooklyn Neustaeter, with a report from CTV News' Vanessa Lee
Published Tuesday, February 12, 2019 6:53AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 12, 2019 2:02PM EST
An Ontario man who spent four years fighting for ISIS and used social media to recruit others now wants to return home with the help of the Canadian government.
Canadian Mohammed Ali says the Islamic State terror group is abandoning its foreign militants as it continues losing ground against U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters.
The 28-year-old says he, his Canadian wife and their two children have been "hung out to dry" and that it is no longer safe for them in Syria.
"Why shouldn't I be able to go home? I've done nothing in Canada. I've broken no laws there at all," said Ali in an interview.
Ali and his family attempted to flee to Turkey after he was cast out of the terror group, but were captured by coalition-led forces. They have been detained in a Syrian prison for the past nine months.
Ali fears the Islamic State militants still have sleeper cells and that members are hiding out until U.S. forces withdraw from the war zone.
"They have pockets in the desert; they've got people intermingling with the population, acting as civilians -- just biding their time," said Ali.
But he isn't the only Canadian in Syria asking for help.
On Sunday, two Canadian women fled one of ISIS' last remaining strongholds and surrendered to coalition forces, according to a report from CNN. The two women, who spoke fluent English, said they were from Toronto and Alberta and travelled to Syria at their husbands' insistence.
Non-profit group Families Against Violent Extremism, which says there are currently 27 Canadians detained in Syria, is lobbying for their return. The group says more than half of those detained are children under the age of five.
Global Affairs Canada previously confirmed that it is aware of Canadian citizens being detained in Syria, but said the government only has minimal means to provide aid.
"Given the security situation on the ground, the Government of Canada's ability to provide consular assistance in any part of Syria is extremely limited," Global Affairs spokesperson Richard Walker said in a statement to CTV News.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told CTV National News' Vanessa Lee that repatriating foreign fighters and their families is not a priority. He added that Canada will not put its diplomatic officers at risk in a "dangerous and dysfunctional" part of the world.