France’s open-border policy regarding refugees has backfired terribly, after it was discovered that one individual who was granted refugee status was actually an ISIS commander who is responsible for the death of thousands in Iraq.
Even more embarrassing for the government of France, they did not catch the error in vetting, but instead, the government of Iraq alerted them to his true identity.
Hiding among legitimate refugee families, Ahmed Hamdane Mahmoud Ayach El Aswadi arrived in France in 2016 and applied for refugee status at the time. His application was approved last summer, but soon after, the Iraqi government alerted France of his likely true identity.
Inexplicably, France allowed him to remain free for nearly a year, only keeping him under surveillance during that time. Once authorities confirmed his identity, he was taken into custody in March.
As an ISIS field commander in Iraq, it is believed he oversaw the execution of around 1,700 enemy soldiers that had been captured near the Iraqi town of Tikrit in 2014. He is likely responsible for the deaths of hundreds more civilians in the area.
Hundreds of mainly Shia soldiers were killed after they fled Camp Speicher, a former US military base, and were rounded up by the Sunni Islamist fighters on June 12, 2014.
Videos and images of the unarmed cadets being beheaded, shot and choked before being dumped into unmarked graves were posted online by the jihadists, and quickly came to symbolise ISIS’ senseless brutality.
“Ahmed Hamdane Mahmoud Ayach El Aswadi was being held at Tikrit’s Tasfirat Salah Eddine prison on terrorism charges, but was freed by Islamic State jihadists after they took control of the town and of its prison in June 2014,” the interior ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the AFP news agency.
The ISIS “emir,” he said, “took part in the Camp Speicher massacre”. The Iraqi official added that witnesses had told prison officials that the ISIS leader has “personally” executed some 103 soldiers that day.
As the Iraqi military began to gain the upper hand against ISIS in the last few years, many in the radical group began fleeing the country. While many joined the fight in Syria, it is believed some hid among the refugees fleeing the conflict in the region and entered Europe.
Ironically, France gave him refugee status over many of the people that were fleeing his murderous actions.
Mr El Aswadi, 33, arrived in France in the summer of 2016 and was granted refugee status in June 2017, according to French interior minister Gérard Collomb, who also confirmed that the terror suspect had been given a 10-year resident card.
French intelligence officials put him under surveillance the following month, after Interpol issued a “red notice” for him at the request of Iraqi authorities, Mr Collomb added.
Mr El Aswadi was finally arrested on March 6 in the northern French town of Normandy.
He is currently being held in pre-trial detention on suspicion of war crimes and murder in connection with a terrorist enterprise, among other terror charges. His protected status has since been revoked by French authorities.
Mr Collomb did not say why it took so long to arrest the man, who he described as a “senior” ISIS member who had been involved in “abominable crimes”.
The suspect, for his part, denies being a senior member of ISIS and playing an active role in the Camp Speicher killings.
On Sunday, his lawyer Mohamed El Monsaf Hamdi denounced an “injustice,” saying that his client had “fought against” – and not alongside – ISIS jihadists in Iraq.
Mr Collomb also said that the new, controversial immigration bill currently working its way through parliament’s upper and lower houses would “strengthen” background checks on refugees seeking asylum in France.
Revelations like this one has caused many citizens to rebel against the country’s liberal refugee program, calling for far stricter vetting so only true refugees pass the application process.