British ex-soldiers fighting ISIS head home, held at border as terror suspects
A pair of British former soldiers, previously accused of being mercenaries after leaving the UK to help Kurdish troops fight the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), were detained at Heathrow Airport as terror suspects after flying home for Christmas.
James Hughes, 26, and Jamie Read, 24, were accused of being paid mercenaries in November after it was revealed they had flown to Syria to help the battle against IS extremists. The pair claimed the beheading of aid worker Alan Henning drove them to become involved.
After their flight home for Christmas to visit family, the two men were held at Heathrow Airport for six hours, where they were kept in separate rooms and questioned about their activities.
Read told the Sun newspaper he was “raging.”
“They kept asking why we went, who we were with and were we being paid? We weren't, of course,” he added.
He also said he hopes to return to Syria, as he believes the conflict against IS is “unfinished business,” claiming the group constitutes the biggest threat to global security of any terror organization.
The families of the men have expressed concern about their welfare, and the decision to leave the UK to join the 20 other foreign soldiers helping the Kurdish Peoples Defense Units (the YPG).
Prior to their detention, Read’s partner, Leeann Fleming, 24, had previously said “the plan is that he will be home for Christmas – and to see him home safely would be the best Christmas present ever.”
“I am very worried about him. I spoke to him only a couple of days ago over Skype. He’s fine and safe. I never know his location when we speak. I miss him lots of course and I can’t wait to be reunited with him,” she added.
Read and Hughes met online on an anti-IS Facebook group, and made the decision to travel there to aid Kurdish forces. They flew to Istanbul from Manchester, before crossing the border to Kobani.
Speaking to the BBC from Kobani, Read described seeing villages attacked and the persecution of local Kurds.
“My family were nervous and obviously worried about my wellbeing – we have gone into an unknown world.
“But I’m a firm believer that if you want to do something you have to do it, not talk about it,” he added.
The pair has lost 11 of their fellow fighters while fighting in Syria through gunfire and IS suicide bombings.
“IS gangs carried out four suicide attacks, including one with a panzer vehicle and two suicide assailants at the border gate, and one other with a bomb-laden vehicle,” A YPG spokesman said.