The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) captured two Americans in Syria who are suspected of being ISIS fighters, the militia said in press release Sunday.
The militia identified the men as Warren Christopher Clark (Abu Mohammad al-Ameriki) and Zaid Abed al-Hamid (Abu Zaid al-Ameriki).
The SDF said Clark is originally from Houston, but it gave no specific location in the United States for the other man’s origin.
The Americans were captured in a group that also contained fighters from Ireland and Pakistan, SDF said.
A Pentagon spokesman said the incident is under investigation.
“We are aware of open source reports of reportedly American citizens currently in custody who were believed to be fighting for ISIS. However, we are unable to confirm this information at this time,” Commander Sean Robertson said.
The White House announced last month that ISIS had been defeated in Syria and the United States would withdraw 2,000 troops from the war-stricken nation.
The dual US-Saudi national was held by the US military in Iraq without being tried since September 2017. His fate was the subject of a months-long legal battle between the US government and the American Civil Liberties Union.
When he was released, CNN reported that SDF has more than 700 foreign terrorist fighters in custody from some 40 countries.
US officials have encouraged countries to repatriate their citizens in detention in Syria in order to ease the burden on the SDF’s detention facilities. But many countries are reluctant to do so because of the difficulty of prosecuting suspected ISIS members based on evidence collected on the battlefield.
More via the NYT who refers to ISIS jihadis as Mr.’s: American ISIS Member Caught on Syrian Battlefield, Militia Says
Little is known about the American said to be captured alongside Mr. Clark, beyond his age, 35. The Syrian Democratic Forces did not say what state he is from, describing him only as “originally from the United States.”
There were indications, however, that Mr. Hamid might not really be American.
His name appears in a database of 130 Trinidadians who joined the Islamic State that is maintained by Simon Cottee, a senior lecturer in criminology at the University of Kent who tracks the group. Mr. Cottee is working on a book about ISIS fighters from the Caribbean nation.
Mr. Hamid has been identified as an extremist since at least 2011, when he was detained in Trinidad as part of an alleged plot to kill the country’s prime minister.
According to Mr. Cottee’s database, Mr. Hamid joined the terrorist group on April 6, 2014, along with his wife and his three children. A much plumper Mr. Hamid appears in an ISIS video, sitting by a languid stream, railing about how his family could not practice their faith in Trinidad.
Mr. Cottee said that he had shared the mug shot published by the Kurdish militia with people who knew Mr. Hamid in Trinidad, and that they had confirmed his identity.
Still, Mr. Cottee did not rule out that the possibility that Mr. Hamid is a dual citizen.
A similarly spelled name — Zaid Abdul-Hamid — appears in a cache of ISIS registration forms indicating that he provided a reference for a recruit from Trinidad and Tobago when that recruit joined the group in 2014. The form indicates that Mr. Abdul-Hamid was in Raqqa, Syria, at that time.
Col. Scott Rawlinson, a spokesman for the American-led military coalition in Baghdad, said in an email that the coalition was “aware of open-source reports of reportedly American citizens currently in custody believed to be fighting for ISIS.”
“However, we are unable to confirm this information at this time,” he said. “The incident is under investigation.”