Sheffield doctor joins Islamic State terrorist group

editorial image
0
Have your say

A Sheffield doctor left his wife and two children to join the Islamic State militant group in Syria, according to leaked IS recruitment papers.

Issam Abuanza, 37, who gained a licence to practice medicine in the UK in 2009, allegedly left his Sheffield home in 2014.

He had been a doctor with the NHS for seven years, according to a BBC investigation. He is the first practising NHS doctor known to have joined the Islamic State group.

Shocking images posted on his Facebook page appear to show Abuanza wearing an army uniform and clutching an AK-47 while reading the Koran.

Another image shows him wearing doctors’ scrubs and carrying a gun in a holster over his shoulder.

The father-of-two has reportedly been condemned by his family, who have said they will never forgive him.

In a January 2015 Facebook post, Dr Abuanza celebrated the terrorist attack on the Parisian headquarters of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in which 12 members of staff were gunned down.

In another chilling post Dr Abuanza has said he wished that a Jordanian pilot burnt alive by IS had taken longer to die.

He wrote: “I would’ve liked for them to burn him extremely slowly and I could treat him so we could torch him once more.”

Abuanza, who is a Palestinian doctor with British citizenship, crossed into Syria on July 26 2014, soon after the creation of the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate.

In Sheffield, prior to his departure, he had been combining shifts as a registrar with running an online clothing company, selling kaftan dresses.

But Abuanza dissolved the company three months before arriving in Syria.

His wife said no-one, including her, had any idea of his plans.

Like thousands of other recruits to IS he completed a registration document. In this, he told his handlers he was a doctor specialising in endocrinology – the treatment of hormonal imbalances.

Dr Abuanza had qualified as a doctor in Baghdad the year before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

From May 2007 to July 2009 he worked at Glan Clwyd Hospital in Rhyl, North Wales, before moving around the UK with work.

During his time working in the NHS, Dr Abuanza had been an active user of medical forums on the internet in which he said foreign-born medics should leave behind their dignity, career and their future before coming to the UK because of the way the NHS treated them.

His sister, Najla Abuanza, said: “He used to be quite the dashing young man, very modern. I’ve no idea how he became like this or who showed him the path to terror.”

Her parents had become unwell because of the strain, she said. “They will never forgive him. My dad’s wish was to see him before he dies.

“He has spent all his money on him and his education and this is what he does.”

She even took to social media to berate her brother for leaving his wife and children in the UK, telling him: “You left them in the same country which is after you now.”

Soon after arriving in Syria, Dr Abuanza began chronicling his work as an IS medic on social media.

In one post, he wrote: “We get a lot of spinal injuries which cause the paralysis of mujahideens [fighters] because we don’t have spinal surgeons.”

He also implored other Western medics to join him and when a group of British medical students abandoned their studies in Sudan and arrived in Syria in 2015.

He wrote: “A couple of days ago our only emergency doctor had fled. I was extremely shocked and saddened. Suddenly, 11 Sudanese doctors entered Islamic State territory. You’ve no idea how happy I was.”

The BBC report that it has not been possible to verify the authenticity of all of the IS recruitment papers, but many of the ones for British fighters have proved to be genuine.

Dr Erin Saltman, senior researcher with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, said: “We shouldn’t be surprised by professionals joining, since Islamic State is not just recruiting combatants. Less like al-Qaeda, this is more akin to Soviet or Nazi youth propaganda that says everyone has a part to play in building this Islamic, purist, utopian society.”

The current whereabouts of Issam Abuanza are unknown, though in October 2015 he was living in Deir Ezzour province in eastern Syria. His startling journey from working the rounds in British hospital wards to the battlefields of Syria is yet another reminder of the dangerous appeal of Islamic State.

The BBC said te organisation has not been able to reach Dr Abuanza, who has not posted anything since October.

Chief executive of Sheffield council answers Star reader questions about city’s future: Part one

Sheffield lecturers to go on strike

Staff to walk out over plans to move 250 Sheffield jobs to London

Blanket ban on legal highs to come into force at midnight

Sheffield terrorism suspect remains in custody