January 15, 2019 12:26 pm

Canadian caught in Syria was commander of ISIS unit, according to U.S.-backed forces

Alleged Canadian ISIS fighter Mohammed Abdullah Mohammed is shown in a video released by Kurdish forces on Jan. 13, 2019.

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The latest Canadian captured in Syria was the commander of more than a dozen fighters who clashed with U.S.-backed forces in the last remaining ISIS enclave, according to a local official.

The former Toronto resident, Mohammed Abdullah Mohammed, was armed with a Kalashnikov rifle and a handgun when he was detained on Sunday by the Syrian Democratic Forces.

While he was not carrying any identity documents, Mohammed allegedly told interrogators he was a 31-year-old Canadian citizen of Ethiopian origin, and a former student at Toronto’s Seneca College.

Under questioning, he said he had joined ISIS over the internet and left Canada in 2013 with the aim of spreading the Islamic faith in the world, a local commander said.

Global Affairs Canada has not responded to questions about Mohammed.

WATCH: On Dec. 11, 2018, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said there was no “good solution” to the problem of allowing the children of Canadians who left to fight for ISIS return home.


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Kurdish forces have on occasion misidentified the nationality of captured fighters but terrorism researcher Prof. Amarnath Amarasingam said he had learned independently that Mohammed was from Toronto.

Including Mohammed, Global News has identified four Canadian men, three women who had married ISIS foreign fighters and seven children who are being held. But an organization representing families of those in custody said it was aware of 21, mostly children.

The detention of the Canadian citizens by Kurdish fighters has created a challenge for the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, raising difficult questions about how to deal with them.

READ MORE: Exclusive: Canadian member of Islamic State caught, but RCMP struggle to lay charges against ISIS fighters

Already battling ISIS and facing more conflict with Turkey and the Syrian regime following a promised U.S. troop withdrawal, Kurdish forces want to hand their captives to their respective governments.

But the RCMP has sometimes struggled to bring charges against ex-foreign fighters and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said last month Ottawa was under no obligation to facilitate their return.

In a video released by Kurdish forces on the weekend, Mohammed was shown wearing a beige camouflage jacket and answering questions.

“I am originally from Ethiopia, I came from Canada,” he said.

WATCH: ‘We don’t want people sneaking in through the side door’

According to the Kurdish forces, Mohammed said he crossed into Syria from Turkey and went first to the northeastern city Idlib. He spent about two months around Aleppo before arriving in Raqqah, the ISIS capital.

He then lived in camps around Deir Al-Zour, near the Iraqi border. He commanded about 17 fighters, and rubbed shoulders with foreign nationals from Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Morocco and Europe.

During an attack on a military position, he was captured by the Shahid Abu Hamza unit of the SDF, the militia that controls the Kurdish region in Syria’s northeast. He is detained in Hajin.

He claimed to have no social media accounts. He also said he had been married three times but did not provide information about the whereabouts of his family members, the official said.

Stewart.Bell@globalnews.ca

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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