A former senior Canadian intelligence officer has called for the UK to repatriate Shamima Begum due to the role of her former agency in the girl’s trafficking to Syria seven years ago.
Huda Mukbil, formerly a senior officer at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) says the agency’s operatives broke their own rules as it handled a covert source who served as a trafficker for Begum and her friends in 2015.
Canadian intelligence’s role in the trafficking of the British schoolgirls into Syria was first revealed in August by Richard Kerbaj, former security correspondent of The Sunday Times, in his book ‘The Secret History of the Five Eyes.’
When the girls fled seven years ago, the UK’s Metropolitan Police Service issued an urgent appeal asking anyone who had seen the teenagers after they went to Gatwick Airport.
They were in fact being aided in their journeys by a smuggler by a covert CSIS operative named Mohammed al-Rashed, who provided transport and tickets for the schoolgirls to reach Syria and Daesh territory.
According to the book, Canada remained silent and convinced the UK to conceal the CSIS’s role after Turkish authorities – who arrested the Canadian spy asset and discovered material evidence – informed London of the truth. In reports earlier this month, it was further confirmed that British intelligence reportedly knew of its Canadian counterpart’s role in the girls’ fleeing to Syria.
The BBC also at the time revealed that it had obtained files proving that the agent shared Begum’s passport details with Canada, and that he had smuggled other Britons to Syria to fight for Daesh or marry the group’s militants.
Speaking to the British broadcaster ITV News, Mukbil – who worked in the UK and in the Middle East during the rise of Daesh – said that “I think it’s important to repatriate her to the UK as well as making sure that she has the support”.
Acknowledging that it was “a traumatic experience to be exploited in this way, unfortunately, by a Canadian source and to be trafficked and exploited by ISIS fighters”, she added that “I’m not here to change anyone’s view on her but I think serious consideration needs to be given to her age when she was trafficked.”
By failing to prevent its human sources from engaging in illegal activities while carrying out work on behalf of the CSIS, the agency would be “in violation of its own rules.” The most important factor to assess, Mukbil said, would be when the agency “became aware that they [the schoolgirls] were minors.”
While Canadian intelligence allegedly may not have known that al-Rashed trafficked minors, “the moment that we did everything else after that lined up.” According to the former CSIS official, “Mistakes do happen but it’s what you do with it afterwards [that counts]. And so, not sharing information with the Metropolitan Police was a mistake in my opinion.”
Begum, now 23 years old, was stripped of her British citizenship in February 2019 when the UK government and former Home Secretary judged her to be a threat to national security. With the revelations of both Ottowa and London’s involvement and awareness in her journey to Daesh – as well as their attempts to cover up their roles – the case for her repatriation to the UK and restoration of her citizenship potentially grows stronger.
In the ongoing legal battle to restore Begum’s nationality, the next step of which is next week, her lawyers are reportedly likely to use the fact that she was a victim of trafficking who was smuggled in by double agent.