ISIS British teen Shamima Begum allegedly smuggled by Canadian spy
The British government has since stripped Begum, who was born in Britain, of her citizenship, fueling a global debate over the responsibility of countries to repatriate their citizens after the militants’ territorial defeat.
From a detention camp in northern Syria where she has languished for the past few years, Begum, now 23, appealed to be allowed to return to the UK. She gave birth to three children, all of whom died young.
In a book slated for release on Thursday, the author Richard Kerbaj claims that an informant from Canada helped smuggle Begum into Syria with his classmates and told his Canadian handler shortly afterwards. Canada later covered up its involvement, he added.
A BBC investigation also reported this week that a smuggler who provided intelligence to Canada facilitated Begum’s trip to Syria. The BBC also said he had shared his passport details with Canadian authorities.
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Accusations of Western involvement or knowledge of Begum’s trip to Syria have reignited a debate over the decision to revoke his citizenship.
In response to questions about whether Canada had recruited an ISIS facilitator and worked with Britain to keep his role hidden, Trudeau said his country would look into the allegations. He supported the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, which he said operates “in a particularly dangerous world” while being “bound by strict rules”.
“The fight against terrorism demands that our intelligence services continue to be flexible and creative in their approaches,” Trudeau told reporters on Wednesday.
“I know there are questions about certain past incidents or operations, and we will make sure to follow up on them,” he added.
A UK government spokesman said on Thursday it had a “long-standing policy that we do not comment on operational intelligence or security matters”.
Dozens of Britons traveled to join the extremist group, known as ISIS, which terrorized millions with sexual slavery and public beheadings. Of around 900 people from Britain who traveled to Iraq or Syria, some 20% were killed in the conflict zone and 40% returned, according to official figures.
With memories of terrorist attacks in European capitals still fresh, other countries have also been reluctant to repatriate their citizens, who can be difficult to prosecute.
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Tasnime Akunjee, a lawyer for Begum’s family, raised questions about British officials aware of the role of an intelligence operative for Canada, a UK ally, in trafficking teenage girls when the government of London decided to revoke Begum’s citizenship.
He said the latest reports were of “crucial importance” as her legal team, in an attempt to challenge the decision, argues that she was trafficked to Syria.
Adela Suliman contributed to this report.