Not All Foreigners In Mosul Are ISIL Militants

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The foreign fighters of ISIL that patrolled Mosul, from the brainwashed Europeans who posted selfies in the early days of the so-called caliphate, to the battle-hardened Chechen veterans who rose to the highest ranks of the organisation, are now a fading memory.

The few that have been captured are held under tight guard away from the world’s media, and most of the others lie in the rubble of Mosul, as dead as ISIL’s claims of statehood. Some, doubtless, will have made it to the deserts of western Anbar, or into Syria.

For a time the recruits were the Western media’s short hand for the evil of ISIL, committing unspeakable atrocities to film, their digital archives mined for warning signs of impending radicalisation. Reports from inside the city have characterised the foreign fighters as the most savage.

But they are gone, and as their stories dim it’s important that the stories of foreigners who endured life under ISIL are told, and that those still missing are not forgotten.

The Telegraph last month reported the incredible story of 64-year-old Scottish grandmother Ellise Campbell, who lived in her west Mosul neighbourhood until it was liberated by Iraqi forces in May. Campbell lived in the city for over 10 years with her Iraqi-Kurdish husband, and was working as an English language instructor when ISIL took over in 2014.

The group insisted she change the name of the school into an Arabic name they could accept. Otherwise, she was able to continue her work, so long as she taught male and female students separately. Now living with one of her sons in Duhok, she told the newspaper that she even managed to avoid delivering lessons to senior members of ISIL.

“They approached me one day and said they would bring 20-30 high-ranking commanders for night lessons at the centre. I had to be careful what I said, you cannot say no to them. But I did, I made the excuse that I was too old to be working late at night, and they accepted.”

Arriving in Erbil today is India’s Minister of State for External Affairs, General Vijay Kumar Singh. He is searching for 39 of his countrymen, reportedly held as hostages by ISIL in Mosul. His official spokesperson told ANI News: “As soon as the announcement of liberation of Mosul was made by the Prime Minister of Iraq Haider al-Abadi, the government has activated various channels for locating those Indians. Iraqi authorities have conveyed that all cooperation would be extended in this regard and instructions have been issued by them to all relevant Iraqi agencies for the same.”

Although the men have not been seen since 2014, Indian officials are confident they are alive.

The fate of another, higher profile foreigner, is also unknown. John Cantlie, the British photojournalist kidnapped in Syria in November 2012, was pressed into action as a Western mouthpiece for ISIL, in a series of propaganda videos which first aired in September 2014. He was last seen in a video from Mosul in December last year, appearing extremely frail. The Facebook account Free John Cantlie hasn’t been updated since June 14 this year.

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