Wednesday, February 22, 2017

British ISIS suicide bomber was a former Guantanamo Bay detainee.

Abu-Zakariya al-Britani in a picture taken shortly before his death and released via Twitter. 

A former Guantanamo Bay detainee has blown himself up in Iraq while fighting with ISIS. BBC. Abu-Zakariya al-Britani, formally known as Ronald Fiddler, 50 from Manchester, blew himself up in an attack at an Iraqi Army checkpoint south west of Mosul. Fiddler had been captured by US forces in Pakistan in 2001 and was found to have useful information about the Taliban but was released in 2003. When he returned to the United Kingdom after being released in 2003, he was given 1 million pounds ($1.24 million at the current rate of exchange). In 2014, Fiddler joined ISIS and entered Syria via Turkey. 

My Comment:
It's my understanding that this incident is causing a large political scandal in the UK. I'm no expert on UK politics but from what I gather both the Tories, and former Prime Minster Tony Blair are blaming each other for this debacle. I won't say who is right but I will say that giving this guy a million pounds was a terrible idea. No matter what happened to him there was always a good chance that he was going to end up being a Jihadist in the end. Either he always was one or he was made one due to his experiences. A huge bribe, which is what I view this payment as, wasn't going to change his chances much. 

There is a chicken vs egg problem here. More specifically, was Fiddler always a Jihadist who wanted to martyr himself for Islam or did his experiences in Guantanamo shape his worldview? It's a tough question and my gut tells me that both were probably true. Fiddler's detainment was controversial even in the more favorable political climate of the early 2000's.

Though a few people ended up in Guantanamo that shouldn't have ever been there, I am not sure if Fiddler was one of him or not. His version of events is rather disturbing. From what I gather he was on a backpacking trip in Pakistan and he claimed that the Taliban abducted him. After getting released he was detained by US forces in Kabul and the forces there didn't buy his story about his abduction. He was held for two years and then released in 2003. 

That tends to give credence to the theory that he hadn't been radicalized yet. Back in 2003, only people who really deserved to be released were released. And the government back then found that he wasn't a threat. 

If Fiddler's version of the story is correct than he had a good reason to be pissed enough to join ISIS. In his version of the events, he was a victim. But is his story true? I am not sure. I have very little reason to trust him or the reporters that mentioned him. For me, anyone that converts to Islam and goes to Pakistan on a backpacking trip is suspect. It's very possible that he was trying to join the Taliban or al-Qaeda and it just didn't work out for him.

Either way though, I get the feeling that the UK really dropped the ball on Fiddler. Forget about whether or not he should have been detained or released or not, once he was released the UK should have kept track of him. Either he was always a Jihadist or he had enough of a grudge that he would turn into one. Neither outcome was surprising. 

I do have to wonder why this scandal erupted now. Fiddler was a celebrity after a fashion. It should have been common knowledge back in 2014 that he joined ISIS. Simply blowing himself up doesn't make his defection any more shocking. The fact is that he was fighting for ISIS should be the main story, not the fact that he blew himself up. 

The one thing I have to point out is that the results of his actual attack have been downplayed. From what I understand it was part of a larger assault that involved three other bombers and killed several Iraqi soldiers. That means that despite whatever else, he acomplished his goal of revenge... 

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