Bangladeshi-origin Shamima Begum, who fled the UK to join the Islamic State militant group, was smuggled into Syria by a Canadian security agent.
The BBC has seen documents in which the spy claims he passed Shamima Begum’s passport details to Canada and smuggled more British nationals to fight for Islamic State.
The British government revoked Shamima Begum’s citizenship after she fled to Syria to join Islamic State. Her lawyers challenged the British government’s decision in court, saying that Shamima Begum was a victim of trafficking.
The Canadian and UK governments declined to comment on the matter, citing security concerns.
Three east London schoolgirls Shamima Begum, Khadija Sultana and Amira Abasi fled to Syria in 2015 to join the Islamic State group. Shamima Begum was 15 years old at that time. The other two were also aged 16 and 15 respectively.
At Istanbul’s main bus station, they are met by a man named Mohammad al-Rashid, who helps them get to areas controlled by the Islamic State in Syria.
When Mohammed al-Rashid was smuggling people into Syria like this, he was sending information to a Canadian security intelligence agency. This was confirmed to the BBC by a senior security intelligence officer, who works for an agency that is part of an international coalition fighting the Islamic State.
The BBC has compiled a dossier on Mohammed al-Rashid, which includes not only information collected on him by law enforcement agencies and security intelligence agencies, but also data collected from his computer hard drive. A detailed idea of how he worked can be obtained from these data.
Mohammed al-Rashid told authorities he would hand over information to the Canadian embassy in Jordan about those he helped smuggle into Syria.
Mohammed Al Rashid was arrested in Turkey within days of Shamima Begum being trafficked to Syria. He then informed Turkish authorities that he had shared a photo of the passport Shamima Begum was traveling on.
While London’s Metropolitan Police was searching for Shamima Begum, Canadian security agencies got hold of Shamima Begum’s passport details. But Shamima Begum also reached Syria by then.
The documents show that Shamima Begum was a major part of the Islamic State’s trafficking network linked to her trafficking to Syria. It was controlled from Raqqa, the Islamic State’s capital.
Mohammad Al Rashid was associated with the Turkish side of the network. Eight months before he helped Shamima Begum and her two friends, he was involved in the smuggling of British men, women and children into Syria.
Shamima Begum speaks on ‘I’m Not A Monster’, a podcast to be aired by the BBC. There he said, “Mohammed al-Rashid made complete arrangements to go from Turkey to Syria.. I don’t think it was possible for anyone to go to Syria without the help of smugglers.” He helped many more people to come… Whatever he asked us to do, we were doing. Because he knew everything, we knew nothing.’
Mohammad Al Rashid used to save all the information of those whom he helped. He took pictures of their identity cards, sometimes secretly recorded videos of them on his phone. In one recording, Shamima Begum and her friends can be seen getting out of a taxi near the Syrian border, then getting into a waiting car.
Mohammed al-Rashid also collected information about the Islamic State. Fighters who went to Syria from Western countries would mark the locations of the houses they lived in on the map. Besides, he used to find the Internet IP address and the internet cafes in IS controlled areas. He used to keep screenshots of his conversations with IS fighters.
One recording shows Mohammed al-Rashid speaking to a man, Raphael Hoste, a notorious British IS fighter, who told him, ‘I want you to work with us. I want you to help bring people here for us.’
In response, Mohammad Al Rashid wrote, ‘Can you clarify the matter a little more?’
Then Raphael replied to the host, ‘You will do what you are doing now. But you will work for us. Will bring us things, help bring our brothers and sisters here.’
Mohammad Al Rashid replied, ‘Brother, I am ready.’
Mohammed Al Rashid was arrested in the Turkish city of Sanliurfa within a few days of helping to smuggle Shamima Begum. In a statement, Al Rashid told the law enforcement agencies that he used to collect the information of all those who he helped in trafficking, including Shamima Begum. Because he was sending these information to the Canadian Embassy in Jordan.
Rashid also said that in 2013, he went to the Canadian embassy in Jordan to apply for asylum. He said, then they said, if I can gather information about the activities of ISIS, they will approve my application.
The BBC has confirmed that he visited Jordan several times between 2013 and 2015.
Shamima Begum’s lawyer Tasnim Akunji said that the application filed challenging the cancellation of Shamima Begum’s citizenship will be heard in November. One of their main arguments then would be that the then Home Secretary Sajid Javid did not take into account the trafficking of Shamima Begum.
“It is shocking that someone from a Canadian intelligence agency is an important part of a smuggling operation,” Akunji said. Instead of smuggling British children into a war zone who are supposed to be our allies, we should be protecting our people.’
Shamima Begum is now being held in a prison camp in northeastern Syria. The British government revoked her citizenship in 2019 when Shamima Begum came to light after the collapse of Islamic State’s so-called caliphate.
A spokesperson for Canada’s security intelligence agency said he could not comment publicly, admit or deny anything about their agency’s investigations, operations, procedures or activities.
A British government spokesman said: ‘It is our longstanding policy not to comment on the activities of security intelligence agencies or on security matters.’