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3 refugees claim UAE funded Daesh in Syria, in landmark UK case

An Arab visitor walks past a battle tank displayed outside the International Defence Exhibition (IDEX) in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Monday, Feb. 23, 2015 [Gabriela Maj/Bloomberg via Getty Images]
An Arab visitor walks past a battle tank displayed outside the International Defence Exhibition (IDEX) in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Monday, Feb. 23, 2015 [Gabriela Maj/Bloomberg via Getty Images]

Three refugees are claiming that the UAE has funded war crimes committed by the terrorist group Daesh during the Syrian conflict, in what has been described as a landmark British court case.

According to an exclusive report by the Daily Mail, the trio who are Syrian asylum seekers in Britain, are pursuing legal action against the Gulf state and allege that it financed human rights abuses in 2015. The case at the High Court is significant as it could open the floodgates for people to hold foreign state sponsors of militant and terror groups to account through British courts and could dismantle the defence of sovereign immunity.

Among the accusations by Mohamed Al-Saeid, Ahmad Sharaf and Mohamad Damen Al-Sulaiman are severe torture, vicious beatings and property destruction committed by jihadists, backed by the UAE, says the report.

One of the claimants testified "the smell of corpses and death spread in my beloved town, and there was no life left in it."

Al-Sulaiman, who was a construction worker from the village of Nabe Al-Sakher in the Quneitra province said: "All groups committed crimes, damages, bombing, torture and killing. They are all armed militias."

"They were abusive to people and wanted to turn our society into a total conservative regime."

"They tortured and killed many people; they refused our style of life which is liberal compared to theirs. They wanted us to convert to their radical ideology."

The area, which at one point was a hotbed of Al-Qaeda affiliate Jahbat Al-Nusra (before it rebranded as Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham), had fighters roaming around armed with Caracal pistols, gifted by the UAE, Al-Sulaiman says.

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Sharaf, who is from Nawaa in the Daraa governorate and was once detained by Daesh, added that "ISIS killed, kidnapped, tortured, arrested, burned people who oppose them from any group, and who are not following their ideology such as singers, artists, painters, and musicians and who refuse to do whatever they asked them to do."

Revealing the UAE's alleged connection to Daesh, he said: "Sometimes we could hear the fighters speak in their Arabic standard dialect which is different from Syrian dialect about the delayed money and salaries and sometimes about aid and food packages from Emirati Red Crescent through Abu Qotada, an ISIS jihadi fighter, who come on a weekly basis to their headquarters on the borders of my town."

"They always talked about 'the Abu Dhabi Sheikh' (another one not Abu Qotada) which will come again. I understood from what they said that there was a man who is in charge of supervising their work and paying their salaries."

Meanwhile, Al-Saeid, from Umm Batinah, also in the Quneitra province, said when Daesh took over his town they came with Red Crescent food parcels, however, he admitted he has no further proof of UAE involvement with terrorists other than media reports.

In 2014, the UAE joined the US-led coalition against Daesh but later repositioned itself following Russia's intervention in the Syria conflict. Following recent reports of closer economic ties between Damascus and Abu Dhabi, last week UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed discussed strengthening relations and cooperation with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

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Europe & RussiaMiddle EastNewsSyriaUAEUK
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