Top commander of the Islamic State foreigners captured
Kurdish forces in northern Syria have arrested a Portuguese extremist from London involved in kidnappings and executions of Western hostages held by ISIS after years on the run.
Nero Saraiva, 33, is believed to be one of the most important foreign ISIS recruits, who succeeded in promoting the terrorist organization until he became commander of the “foreign fighters unit.”
Saraiva was arrested by the Kurdish forces, putting an end to his seven-year journey which started in Walthamstow northeast of London, and ended in ISIS territory, where he married five women, and fathered 10 children.
Saraiva, who is a Portuguese national, was arrested after he moved to Baghouz, north Syria, reported the Portuguese magazine Sabado last week. He suffers from partial paralysis after being severely injured during the fall of Baghouz.
He was questioned in July by western intelligence agents who believe that information he provides on the terrorist group’s UK network, namely the so-called “ISIS Beatles”, could prove invaluable to British security services.
He was one of the first fighters to arrive in Syria, and is potentially considered a goldmine of information, the Sunday Times quoted an official as saying.
Saraiva, a former Roman Catholic who converted to Islam, has been on the most wanted list by the West since 2012, after he was suspected of being involved in the kidnapping of British war photographer John Cantlie.
Two years later, after being in charge of the European fighters unit, Saraiva was strongly linked to the filmed murder of James Foley, a US journalist beheaded by Jihadi John.
ISIS posted Foley’s decapitation in a YouTube video called “A Message to America.” Two other US hostages and British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning were later murdered.
Saraiva is one of six friends from Waltham Forest who joined ISIS after being radicalized in London. The men, all Portuguese citizens, had moved to London to study and find work.
He was born in Angola, a former Portuguese colony in southern Africa, and was the first of the six to settle in the UK.
Between 2008 and 2012, Saraiva lived in a one-bedroom flat in Walthamstow with his wife and young son. According to his old Facebook profile, he graduated with a civil engineering degree from the University of East London and later worked in “gas network operations”.
However, Saraiva’s former partner said she had no recollection of him having studied at the university, indicating he was on jobseeker’s allowance.
He later abandoned his wife and child and headed to Syria to join the terrorist organization.
His five friends, including Fabio Pocas, who had attended the youth academy of the Sporting Lisbon football club, followed him to the war zone.
It is believed that the six have joined another group of Londoners, including Mohammed Emwazi, the killer who became known as Jihadi John.
The group was tasked with recruiting westerners, including teenage ISIS brides, through social media.
Saraiva, who later became known as Abu Yaqub al-Andalusi, married five women, according to Sabado.
His last bride was Angela Barreto, a Dutch convert who had been married to Pocas before he was killed in fighting.
Saraiva is the only member of the Waltham Forest cell who still alive, and his interrogation is expected to help authorities in taking to trial other ISIS returnees.