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Aid worker stripped of his British citizenship due to links to Al-Qaeda is kidnapped in Syria

An aid worker who was stripped of his British citizenship due to links to Al-Qaeda has been kidnapped by a rival Islamist group in Syria. 

Tauqir Sharif, 31, from Walthamstow, east London, was seized last night by around 15 members of the militant group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in Atmeh, in the northwestern Idlib province.

Sharif, known locally as ‘Tox,’ and his British wife Racquell Hayden-Best have been aid workers in Syria since 2012, where they have since had five children.

In 2017, the Home Office informed Sharif he was to be stripped of his citizenship for being ‘aligned with an AQ-aligned (Al-Qaeda) group.’

Sharif denies membership of any such group but has previously admitted to carrying an AK-47 in Syria for personal protection while travelling in an aid convoy. 

Tauqir Sharif, 31, from Walthamstow, east London, was seized last night by around 15 members of the militant group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in the northwestern city of Idlib

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) members at a camp in the countryside of the northern Idlib province in August 2018. HTS, formerly known as Nusra Front, split from Al-Qaeda in 2016 in an act of defiance against the terror group's top brass, leading to accusations from both sides

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) members at a camp in the countryside of the northern Idlib province in August 2018. HTS, formerly known as Nusra Front, split from Al-Qaeda in 2016 in an act of defiance against the terror group’s top brass, leading to accusations from both sides

But the government deemed his return would ‘present a risk to the national security of the United Kingdom.’

Sharif says his interests in Syria have only ever been charitable and he is well-known to British charities in the country, according to Middle East Monitor.

Sharif had his citizenship removed by the then-home secretary Amber Rudd in 2017

Sharif had his citizenship removed by the then-home secretary Amber Rudd in 2017

The motive for his kidnapping was not immediately clear. 

However, Sharif’s popularity may have been a factor and HTS has grown increasingly paranoid about perceived threats to its authority in the volatile region.  

HTS, formerly known as Nusra Front, split from Al-Qaeda in 2016 in an act of defiance against the terror group’s top brass, leading to furious accusations from both sides.

HTS has been designated a terrorist group by the United States, Turkey and others.

A statement from the humanitarian colleagues of Sharif said: ‘LUFS team member…was kidnapped tonight around 9.30PM by HTS and taken to an unknown location.’

On its Facebook page, LUFS describes itself as a Muslim Western charity supporting displaced people in Syria. 

Sharif, known locally as 'Tox,' and his British wife Racquell Hayden-Best have been aid workers in Syria since 2012, where they have since had five children.

Sharif, known locally as ‘Tox,’ and his British wife Racquell Hayden-Best have been aid workers in Syria since 2012, where they have since had five children.

Syria’s northwest is home to a mix of Islamist militant and opposition groups, many of which have fled other parts of Syria as President Bashar al-Assad, with Russian backing, has seized back territory during the roughly nine-year-old war.

The area is also populated by hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons that rely heavily on humanitarian assistance.

Attacks on humanitarian workers by rebel groups are not unheard of but they are usually allowed to move freely by HTS.

Asked by the BBC last year whether he was aligned with an Al-Qaeda backed group, Sharif replied: ‘Of course not. I mean I came out here to help the innocent, people that were being massacred by the Bashar regime. I am an aid worker.

Sharif denies being part of any Al-Qaeda affiliated group and says he has only ever been a charitable worker in Syria

Sharif denies being part of any Al-Qaeda affiliated group and says he has only ever been a charitable worker in Syria

‘I’m saying “OK, if there’s evidence, put me in front of a jury and I will win”. I believe that 100%. But to say that there’s secret evidence and it’s too secret for us to share with you I think that’s unfair.’

The Home Office was able to strip Sharif of his citizenship because he is also holds a Pakistani passport, meaning he was not made stateless. 

The Home Office has said of the furore over Sharif’s case that any decision to strip an individual of their citizenship is done so ‘on all available evidence and not taken lightly.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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