London student Ishak Mostefaoui who joined Islamic State terrorist group dies in Syrian jail
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A former London student who joined Isis in Syria has reportedly died while being held in prison.
Ishak Mostefaoui, 27, was captured in March 2019 as the terrorist group lost the last scraps of territory in its self-declared “caliphate”.
He was held alongside international jihadis in a jail run by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Hassakeh.
In an interview with The Independent in December, Mostefaoui said he had not been visited by any British government representatives but was willing to stand trial in the UK.
“We’ve been here for nine months and we don’t even know what is going on,” he said.
“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.
“Because of the position I’m in now, I regret everything I’ve done. I want to start a new page.”
The BBC reported that he had died in contested circumstances at the prison, which is inside an abandoned school.
Competing sources claimed that Mostefaoui was shot while trying to escape, killed during recent rioting, or — according to an Isis propaganda channel — killed while trying to get water during a siege that saw food and medication withheld from inmates.
Held alongside Mostefaoui was Aseel Muthana, from Cardiff, and an unconfirmed number of other British jihadis whose fate is unknown.
When The Independent visited the jail, guards feared an escape attempt and cells were dangerously overcrowded with around 5,000 men.
Around 100 were crammed into each cell at the time, and half were believed to be suffering from medical conditions.
The Foreign Office said it did not comment on individual cases, and that the SDF and other local groups were responsible for prisoners in their care.
A government spokesperson said: “Since 2011, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has advised against all travel to Syria.
“Those who chose to leave the UK and fight for, or support, Daesh potentially pose a very serious national security risk”.
Mostefaoui, who previously lived in Leyton, east London, left the UK for Syria in 2014 with fellow Westminster University student Zakariyya Elogbani.
They were among seven students from the same university to join Isis, including executioner Mohammed Emwazi, who became known as “Jihadi John”.
Mostefaoui, whose family moved to the UK from Algeria when he was five years old, claimed he was motivated to join Isis by the suffering of the Syrian people the ongoing civil war.
After being captured, his friend Elogbani said the pair went to Syria to fight, but Mostefaoui claimed he did administrative work for Isis.
Mostefaoui left the group’s last major stronghold, Baghouz, unconscious after being severely injured in a US-led coalition airstrike that he said killed his wife and young son.
The SDF has repeatedly called for the UK and other countries to take responsibility for their foreign fighters and remove them from the region.
There have long been fears over escape attempts and instability fuelled by the Turkish-led invasion of northern Syria in October.
Karim Omar, a Kurdish foreign affairs official, previously told The Independent that the SDF was holding men, women and children from 49 countries across different prisons and camps.
“We cannot bear this responsibility alone,” he added. “We ask the international community and the countries to which Isis members belong to take up its moral and legal duty and repatriate their citizens back to their countries.”
The British government has so far refused to take that step, amid concerns over a lack of evidence to jail returnees and the security threat they present.
Of more than 900 people who travelled to Syria and Iraq from the UK, an estimated half have returned but only around 40 were successfully prosecuted.