Shock as local jihadi caught fighting for ISIS – but no need for panic

by Padraig Conlon
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AN Irish specialist in Islamic counter terrorism says there is no need
for alarm after an Irish citizen was arrested in Syria fighting for ISIS.

Alexandr Ruzmatovich Bekmirzaev, who lived in Dublin and became a
naturalised Irish citizen in 2010, was part of a group arrested by Syrian
Democratic Forces in the east of the country on December 30.

Originally from Belarus, he moved to Ireland in 2000 but left in 2013
when he took his family to the Middle East.

Noel Whelan, a Tallaght native now based overseas, is an International
Counter Terrorism Advisor who specialises in countering Islamic extremism.

He believes that despite of the arrest of Bekmirzaev, who lived in numerous rented properties in the inner city and southside of the capital during his 13
years in this country, the public should not panic.

“Obviously having an Irish citizen allegedly show up among a group of ISIS fighters captured in Syria is thankfully a very rare occurrence,” Whelan
told Dublin Gazette.

“However, The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation
in London believe up to 40 Irish passport-holders have gone to engage in
jihad in Syria or Iraq.

“I think though the gardai are doing a very good job surveilling suspected
Islamic extremists within the state so there is no need for alarm.

“I was back in Ireland for Christmas and have to say I was very
impressed with the Gardai in Dublin city centre on New Year’s Eve.

“They were very switched on, had an excellent presence and
were patrolling the area in a very impressive manner.”

Whelan, who has worked with and advised agencies like the US
Department of Homeland Security, British Armed Forces and United
States Federal Agencies says suspected terrorists returning to this
jurisdiction can cause a headache for gardai.

“It’s not possible to keep every person of interest under surveillance,
it’s a very labour intensive job,” he said.

“The amount of attention given to a target would depend on how
active they are and if they’re associating with important players.”

Whelan says a thorough Garda investigation will now be taking place into Bekmirzaev’s life in this state.

“A new review will be carried out to establish his movements in recent years, who he was in contact with, any business dealing
etc,” Whelan said.

“I think the gardai do need the help of the Muslim community as
well, they need Uumah, an Arabic word for community, if they suspect someone may be radicalised.

“ISIS are the masters of propaganda, their digitised communications
are extremely sophisticated and mean young men can be radicalised
in their own homes.”

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