Lebanese join ISIS in Iraq because of poverty
- It is assumed that Zakaria al-Adl tried to escape from the sea to Europe after being lost during the summer, but the young Lebanese man died in Iraq
- The 22-year-old, who was born in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, is one of at least eight men killed in Iraq since December 2021, as an extremist
- All hail from poor neighborhoods in Tripoli, and allegedly lured to join ISIS by promises of a decent salary.
It is assumed that Zakaria Al-Adl tried to escape from the sea to Europe after being lost during the summer, but the young Lebanese man died in Iraq after that.
The 22-year-old was born in Tripoli In northern Lebanon, he is one of at least eight men killed in Iraq since December 2021, as a suspected extremist.
They all hail from poor neighborhoods in Tripoli, and were allegedly lured to join ISIS by promises of a decent salary, according to a security official.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity on the sensitive issue, said he believed dozens more from the same Mediterranean city had recently joined the ranks of ISIS as they were recruited by a militant from Tripoli living outside Lebanon.
“We didn’t know he was in Iraq until we were notified of his death” last December, Zakaria’s mother, Ghufran al-Adl, 56, told AFP from her one-bedroom apartment in Bab al-Tabbaneh, a neighborhood. the poorest in the country.
Zakaria had been missing since last summer, but until the Iraqi military in December released photos and videos of dead ISIS fighters in the Anbar desert in western Iraq, his family learned of his death.
His brother Ali al-Adl played one of these videos on his phone, which appeared to show Zakaria’s body next to another on the hood of a car.
The Iraqi military said in a statement at the time that it had killed 10 ISIS fighters in strikes and clashes.
Zakaria’s family said that poverty, not ideological affiliation, is what prompted the young man in the first place to join the ranks of the militants, at a time when Lebanon is suffering from an unprecedented financial crisis.
“When he disappeared, we thought he was planning to go to Sweden illegally,” Ali said.
“He left because of poverty,” Ali said of his brother, who was running the vegetable cart.
Ghufran, who desperately needs heart surgery her family can’t afford, said her son “lived and died on the sidelines.”
Since August, dozens of young people have disappeared from Tripoli, which has been hit particularly hard by the country’s financial collapse.
“The number of young people who joined ISIS is estimated at 48,” a security official said, explaining that the last wave of recruits left Lebanon on January 18.
The same source added that “their families informed the authorities of their whereabouts after receiving calls from them while they were in Iraq.”
The official added that the fate of only five out of 48 had not been revealed.
Even before the 2019 financial crisis erupted in Lebanon, the second Lebanese city was widely seen as a volatile stronghold of militants.
Its poorest neighborhoods have been major supporters of Sunni militants responsible for attacks against the army and involved in extremist activities in Tripoli and beyond.
Thousands have been arrested on suspicion of links to terrorism, many without trial.
The security official believes that “financial motives” are the main reason for the youth of Tripoli to join the ranks of ISIS.
The official said the group is attracting its recruits with the promise of “salaries of up to $5,000 a month.”
Iraq’s National Security Adviser, Qassem al-Araji, said on Sunday that Baghdad had started talks with the Lebanese authorities about the ISIS threat.
He added that the Lebanese Interior Minister is expected to visit Baghdad soon to discuss the concerns.
In January of this year, the village of Wadi al-Nahla near Tripoli received news that Omar Seif had been killed among five of its residents in Iraq.
Omar left Tripoli on December 30 and died about a month later, according to his family.
Omar’s mother learned about the matter via WhatsApp, according to a relative who spoke to AFP on the condition of anonymity.
She had sent Omar a letter asking him: “How are you, my love?”
The reply she received came from a number that Omar had been calling her before: “My love is dead.”
The Iraqi army issued a statement describing Omar and two of his cousins as Lebanese nationals killed in air strikes targeting ISIS fighters in the eastern Diyala province.
Agence France-Presse met Omar’s mother two weeks before his death.
She claimed that poverty took away her son, a former convict held on suspicion of involvement in attacks against the military – who had virtually no job opportunities after his release from prison.
“He was desperate,” she told AFP at the time, requesting anonymity for security reasons. “No one wanted to hire him…so he worked as a day laborer.”
Her mother added that Omar was planning to marry his fiancée within the next two months, which made him take over financial matters, and she blamed the Lebanese state for the fate of her son.
When asked if she feared he might have joined ISIS, she said, “I’m afraid he might have…but it’s better to die there than ever to go back to Lebanon, even if it means never seeing him again.”