Abu Ridwan, Canadian ISIS Media Operative Captured by Kurdish Forces, Describes His Jihadi Activity
On January 16, 2019, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) released a video showing Muhammad Abdullah Muhammad, also known as Abu Ridwan Al-Canadi, a Canadian ISIS media operative that they arrested in the Deir Al-Zour region of eastern Syria. In the video, an injured Abu Ridwan described his jihadi activity in Syria and his subsequent capture. Abu Ridwan said that he is an Ethiopian-born resident of Canada, and that he arrived in Idlib, Syria in 2013 and joined Jaysh Al-Muhajireen Wal-Ansar, which was a group lead by Chechen jihadist Abu Omar Al-Shishani and which swore allegiance to ISIS. Abu Ridwan had allegedly played a role in the Islamic State's English-language media efforts and it is possible that he narrated ISIS' infamous two-part English-language "Flames of War" video series, which was released in September 2014 and November 2017.
Abu Ridwan: "My name is Muhammad Abdullah Muhammad, I am originally from Ethiopia, and I came from Canada. I came to Syria in 2013, and at the time I, I came through Turkey into Idlib. When I reached Idlib I joined a group there called Jaysh Al-Muhaijreen Wal-Ansar and this group then gave me up to the Islamic State. Afterwards, we were in the Halib countryside, the Aleppo countryside, from there we moved to Raqqa, the city of Raqqa, and we were there for a few years. From Raqqa we – when the coalition was targeting Raqqa – we moved to the city of Al-Mayadeen. From Al-Mayadeen we moved the area called Al-Shamiya, specifically Al-Mujahidah, and from there we crossed the river and were in the area of Al-Jazeera, specifically in Al-Haraneech. From Haraneech we came here to the area of Shafa, specifically Al-Mumadron. I was captured by Majurnist Deir Al-Zour Al-Aqsa, the Deir Al-Zour military counsel. I was captured by them after attacking one of their points and entering into a gun battle with them. After they called me to surrender myself, I surrendered myself and from there…After they called me to surrender myself, I surrendered myself.
"The situation in the Islamic State currently as it is, is that the Islamic State has made [unintelligible Arabic] to the area of Al-Sousa and Marashten and what's after Marashten, and so on. Basically, many of the soldiers have taken their families there and after taking their families to a safe place they had the intention to come back and fight. I have seen soldiers from various countries who are still present, countries such as Russia, Tajikistan, Tunisia, the area of the Arabian Peninsula, countries such as Trinidad and so on. The situation there is that it's become very crowded and many of the people, both civilians and soldiers have basically decided to leave and to try and find the way to Turkey through using smugglers. In terms of the Islamic State's capability to fight, in these past days what I've seen myself is that there has been an increase in airstrikes, to the point where they also target the areas that are outside the battlefield, targeting, apparently targeting strategic places and also continuing their drone strikes as well. They...this has apparently put a bit of pressure in that what I have noticed is that the soldiers are not fighting open – so much – but rather are restricting themselves to small groups and are resorting to tunnels and trenches and so on. In terms of the general situation, the general situation is that the market is extremely crowded and busy and as I mentioned there are many people intending to leave and so they're selling their goods for cheap prices and their food as well. Prior to that there was the Hisad, the siege, which made it difficult in terms of food, and it seems to me that the soldiers have secured for themselves a good quantity of food in order so that they can continue fighting. At the moment, it seems to me that based on what I've seen of the crowdedness over in Sousa, and the fact that there is still the territory from Sousa all the way to Bahrouse, it seems to me that the numbers of the soldiers are still – I wouldn't say in the hundreds, if I had to guess, I would say probably in the thousands – and again, as I've heard many of them are trying to leave. With regards to the women fighting, as I know, as I'm aware, and what I was told back in Raqqa is that there is a general rule against women fighting here in the Islamic State, however there are some exceptions. An exception was made in Huraneech and there were some women fighting, but the general rule is usually that they don't fight. With regards to the women of the YPG fighting, this was for us nothing strange in particular because back when we were in the Halib countryside, before going to Raqqa, when we were in Syreen, we would see the YPG positions. We would be told that they had female snipers, who are strong snipers, and so this was, since then, it was nothing new to us. And also given the fact that in general, given that we come from the West, it's not surprising for us to see female soldiers, since we see this also in Western nations such as Canada, America, Britain, and so on.