A former student from London who fled to Syria to join the Daesh terror group has died in a Kurdish-run prison, according to the BBC and the Independent.
Ishak Mostefaoui, 27, was captured in March last year following the territorial defeat of Daesh. He is reported to have died in the prison – an abandoned school – run by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the north-east city province of Hasaka.
The cause of death remains unknown and contested. Some sources say that he was shot while attempting to escape, others that he was killed in a recent prison riot. Daesh itself claims that he was killed while trying to find water due to a siege which prevented inmates from getting food and medication.
Mostefaoui’s death comes after the Independent interviewed him last December. He stressed at the time that he was ready to stand trial upon returning to Britain, despite not hearing from or being visited by any representative of the British government.
“We’ve been here for nine months and we don’t even know what is going on,” he told the newspaper. “If we go back home, and we get taken to court and we are found guilty of whatever crimes they see as a crime, I’ll put my hands up and do my time for that.” He insisted that he regrets “everything” he’s done and wants to turn the page.
Algerian-born Mostefaoui moved to Britain at the age of five with his family. He lived in the East London area of Leyton before he went to Syria in 2014, the year that Daesh rose to prominence and captured a lot of territory for its “Caliphate”. He claimed that he was motivated to join the group due to the suffering of the Syrian people in the country’s ongoing civil war, and travelled there with a fellow student from London’s University of Westminster, Zakariyya Elogbani.
He apparently left the last Daesh stronghold of Baghouz after being severely injured by an air strike that killed his wife and young son, before being captured. While Elogbani has claimed that they both fought for the terror group, Mostefaoui claimed that he only did administrative work.
Prior to his death, Mostefaoui was reportedly held alongside a number of other British fighters who fled to Syria, including Aseel Muthana from Cardiff. While Daesh fighters – both foreign and Syrian – are being held in prisons, their surviving wives and children are held in camps throughout north-east Syria.
The condition in both the prisons and the detention camps has been criticised widely. The UK-based Human Rights Watch revealed last week that around 700 women and children have died recently due to the poor conditions and lack of basic resources.
Despite the SDF, its ally the United States and the United Nations having urged European nations including Britain to repatriate its nationals who fled to join Daesh and make them stand trial, many of have refused on national security grounds. Apart from Britain and other countries primarily allowing the children of fighters to return, around 400 British fighters have returned to the UK and are to be charged.