Edmonton woman married ISIS fighters, sought weapons training

A woman walks with children at Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) screening area after being evacuated out of last territory held by ISIS, Baghouz, Syria, March 1, 2019. AP Photo/Felipe Dana

The Alberta court approved a terrorism peace bond on Wednesday for an Edmonton woman federal prosecutors allege was married to two ISIS fighters and sought military training.

A year after the government brought her home from Syria, where she was captured during the defeat of ISIS, Aimee Lucia Vasconez stood in an Edmonton courtroom to hear her fate.

While the 39-year-old does not face any criminal charges stemming from her time with ISIS, the court ordered her to live under a list of restrictions for the next 12 months.

They include that she stay at an Edmonton address, remain in the province and not possess a travel document or a computer, phone or tablet capable of accessing the internet.

The lawyer representing Vasconez said she consented to the conditions and would respect them. “She understands them and she’s prepared to abide by them,” Yoav Niv said.

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A judge imposed the peace bond in the name of public safety after the federal Crown outlined the RCMP’s allegations about the time Vasconez spent in Syria.

“Police believe that Ms. Vasconez lived in ISIS-held territory, was approved ultimately to join an ISIS battalion and has training in military tactics, weapons and techniques,” the Crown said.

According to the allegations, Vasconez left Canada in 2015 and travelled to ISIS territory with her two children and her husband Ali Abdel-Jabar, who “died fighting for ISIS.”

Vasconez remarried, but her second husband also died fighting, the Crown said, adding the RCMP had obtained a letter “concerning her application for martyrdom benefits.”

“In addition there was documentation believed to be from Ms. Vasconez requesting ISIS fighter training, which appeared to have been approved,” the Crown told the court.

U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter frisks a woman during the collapse of ISIS, Baghouz, Syria, March 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana).

On Feb. 7, 2019, U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters captured Vasconez in northeast Syria. She was held for four years at a detention camp for ISIS families, until the Canadian government secured her release and flew her home in April 2023.

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She was arrested by the RCMP upon arriving back in Canada, but instead of charging her, Crown prosecutors applied to the Alberta court for a terrorism peace bond — a tool used to reduce the risk posed by a suspect police believe may commit terrorism.

She was then released to live with her mother in Edmonton under conditions, including that she participate in a de-radicalization program and not get behind the wheel of a car.

Two other Edmonton women, sisters-in-law Helena Carson and Dina Kalouti, were also caught in Syria and are scheduled to face similar peace bond hearings in July.

Canadian diplomats meet local authorities in northeast Syria during the handover of four Canadian women captured during the defeat of ISIS, April 5, 2023. AANES

Peace bonds, which impose court-ordered conditions on suspects, have become Canada’s most common response to the threats posed by women returning from ISIS.

Dozens of Canadian women joined ISIS during the war in Syria and Iraq, and those who survived and were captured have been trickling home with government help.

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Although it is illegal to leave the country to participate in terrorism, Canada has charged few of its ISIS women.

Of the nine who have returned from the Al Hol and Roj camps in Syria, just two have been charged: Montreal’s Oumaima Chouay and Ontario resident Ammara Amjad.

Six others faced peace bond cases, while a seventh, who had left Toronto to marry an ISIS fighter, was not arrested upon her return last year.

Global Affairs Canada also brought 22 Canadian children back from the camps for ISIS detainees, most recently two weeks ago.

At the time Vasconez was captured, a woman matching her description told CNN her husband had ordered her to join him in Syria and she was required to obey.

She said he told her it was “‘obligatory for you to come here. You have no choice, and as your husband I’m telling you to come here,’” the woman told CNN.

“And as a Muslim wife you have to obey.”

She said she lived in Raqqa, then the ISIS capital in Syria. When her husband died in fighting, she married a Canadian, but he was also killed, she said.

Vasconez was reportedly held at the Al-Hawl camp, a detention facility for ISIS families captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish armed group that controls northeast Syria.

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Click to play video: 'Surrey bus attack being investigated as ISIS terrorism'
Surrey bus attack being investigated as ISIS terrorism

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service said in its latest annual report that it had provided advice on the security threats posed by the women returning from Syria.

It also collaborated with the RCMP and Public Prosecution Service of Canada on charges and peace bonds “to mitigate potential threats to national security.”

Several key ISIS figures were killed in 2023, but “their deaths have no bearing on the group’s ability to inspire attacks,” CSIS wrote in its report to Parliament.

In Surrey, B.C., an alleged ISIS supporter, Abdul Aziz Kawam, was arrested last April for a stabbing attack on a bus. He was charged with four counts of terrorism.

Such attacks will likely continue “at an unpredictable pace” in 2024, depending on world events, ISIS propaganda and individual motivations, CSIS wrote.

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