A suspected British-Canadian ISIS militant languishing in a Kurdish prison in northern Syria now says he would like to return to Canada, after learning that authorities in the U.K. have stripped him of his British citizenship.
Jack Letts, dubbed “Jihadi Jack” by British tabloids, has been held for over two years by Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria after allegedly trying to escape the fighting in the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa. A Muslim convert, who grew up in Oxford, U.K., Letts had travelled to Syria in 2014 at age 18.
“I’ve always felt I’m a mix. And I’ve been to Canada seven times and I spent a lot of time in Canada,” Letts, 24, said in an exclusive interview with the U.K.-based ITV News that was published Monday. “My whole family’s Canadian.
“I always expected Canada to help me and they didn’t. I hope Canada does take me from here if they can.”
‘I never killed anyone’
Letts, who is being held in a prison in Qamishli in northern Syria along the Turkish border, said going to Syria “was probably the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.”
— ITV News (@itvnews) August 19, 2019
“I never killed anyone though, and I’ve never taken anyone a slave. I’ve never even hurt anyone in ISIS,” he told ITV News. “I only ever fought the Syrian regime which killed more than a million Syrians.
“I did it with the wrong people. That’s true.”
‘Will not lift a finger to bring him back to Canada,’ says opposition leader
Letts is one of several Canadians being held by Kurdish forces who spearheaded the fight against ISIS in northeastern Syria with support from the U.S. and other Western allies.
On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dodged questions about whether Letts would be allowed to return to Canada.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Letts should remain locked up and his party wouldn’t intervene if it forms the next government after the October federal election.
“Jihadi Jack is in prison now and that is where he should stay,” Scheer said Monday in a statement. “A Conservative government under my leadership will not lift a finger to bring him back to Canada.”
In a statement released Sunday, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s office said Canada had no legal obligation to facilitate Letts’ return to Canada.
“We will not expose our consular officials to undue risk in this dangerous part of the world,” the statement said.
Very limited consular assistance capability
Barbara Harvey, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, said given the security situation on the ground, the federal government’s ability to provide consular assistance in any part of Syria is extremely limited.
“The Government of Canada is engaged in these cases and is providing assistance—to the limited extent possible,” Harvey told Radio Canada International Monday in an emailed statement.
“Canadian diplomats have established a communications channel with local Kurdish authorities in order to verify the whereabouts of some Canadian citizens.”
Reports of an agreement concerning the repatriation of Canadian citizens from Syria are false, Harvey said, adding that due to provisions of the Privacy Act, no further information can be disclosed.
With files from CBC News