By Andrew Leahy
A number of English jihadists were known to have travelled to Syria from their native land and supported the so-called Islamic State in Syria. According to the BBC news database, approximately 800 Britons have travelled to fight for the terrorist organisation, with 75 of them being convicted for offences relating to Iraq and Syria, the most notable of which was Jihadi John.
It’s well documented there are a number of Islamic extremists in Ireland, who are being monitored by the Garda’s counter-terrorism unit. However, the first record of an Irish extremist killed in the Middle East came to light when Dublin native Terence Kelly blew himself up as part of ISIS’s attempt to defend their last stronghold in Iraq – the city of Mosul.
Kelly was born in south Dublin in 1967 and lived in the Liberties, and was once a Catholic altar-boy. However, he converted to Islam whilst in a Saudi Arabian jail, where he was convicted for brewing home-made alcohol. He appeared on the Late Late Show with controversial British cleric Anjem Choudary where both defended the actions of Al- Qaeda. Kelly was also arrested back in 2011 when he suggested that President Barack Obama should be killed on a presidential visit to the Republic.
Kelly, who was also referred to as “Khalid Kelly”, once worked as a nurse in Pakistan, but found himself on the frontline in Iraq, where he detonated a VBIED (Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device). The attack was aimed at pro-Iraqi government forces, but it is believed that his suicide mission had no victims.
Since the news broke that this Irishman carried out a suicide attack, gardaí in Ireland have been working on the personal background information on Kelly to establish if he has any remaining associates in Ireland that may be dangerous to the public. They believe that although Kelly spent the majority of his time in the UK with his wife and three children, he had planned this attack while living in Ardagh in Co. Longford, something which has shocked many residents there. The investigation will try to shed light on whether any other individuals in Ireland aided Kelly in some way to plan, or to carry out his attack in Iraq. Gardaí will also monitor Kelly’s use of social media, to see if he encouraged others at home to join ISIS or to radicalise their religious beliefs.
The gardaí estimates that there are approximately 30 to 40 people who have left Ireland to fight in the war in Syria or Iraq, with a small number being Irish-born. The others had grown up in Ireland but their families moved here from abroad. This radicalisation generally takes place online over social media, and gardaí are urging the public to contact them if they view any sinister activity online.
After the attack, ISIS published a photo of Kelly holding a weapon standing in front of a VBIED among other photos of the explosion claiming that he had killed vast numbers. However, forces in opposition to ISIS in Mosul claimed that the blast resulted in a few injuries, but no fatalities.