Shamima Begum: Canada would back Islamic State ‘trafficking’ inquiry

<span>Photograph: PA</span>
Photograph: PA

Senior Canadian intelligence officials would support an inquiry into their organisation’s deeply contentious role in the smuggling of British schoolgirl Shamima Begum into Syria, the Observer has been told.

Sources have told Tasnime Akunjee, the lawyer representing Begum’s family, that there is significant concern within its ranks that a people smuggler working for Canadian intelligence helped Begum and two friends from Bethnal Green, east London, to join Islamic State in Syria. Until now, sources within the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) have kept their counsel over the scandal since it was revealed last week that the Metropolitan police in London allegedly knew that a people smuggler linked to western security services trafficked the then 15-year-old.

Akunjee said: “I have spoken to individuals within the CSIS who are extremely concerned and shocked about its role in the trafficking of Shamima Begum and would strongly support an inquiry into its involvement.” He also suggested that at the time of the alleged trafficking of Begum in 2015, Canadian intelligence officials appeared to have broken the service’s operating guidance.

“It is also worth noting that, at the time of her trafficking into Syria, CSIS did not have the legal authority to recruit and provide resources to someone engaged in supporting terrorism,” said Akunjee.

Of Begum’s two friends smuggled into Syria by Mohammed al-Rashed – a double agent working for both IS and Canadian intelligence – Kadiza Sultana, then 16, is believed to have been killed in an air raid while Amira Abase, then 15, is missing. Pressure is also mounting in the UK for an independent inquiry into precisely what the Met and UK security services knew of the trafficking network that took the three London schoolgirls into Syria.

Canada privately admitted its involvement when it feared being exposed and successfully asked Britain to cover up its role, according to a new book, The Secret History of the Five Eyes by Richard Kerbaj. Five Eyes is the network that shares intelligence between Britain, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It reports that two officials from the CSIS met then Met head of counter-terrorism, Richard Walton, in March 2015, shortly after Begum’s disappearance.

The revelations prompted Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, to argue for the need for intelligence services to be “flexible and creative”, but, he added, also to abide by strict rules. Akunjee also said that questions needed to be answered about the trafficking of children into IS as potential intelligence assets.

Last week’s revelations have also led to renewed calls for the British government to look into the myriad safeguarding and public safety failures in the case.

Begum, now 23, is trapped in a camp in Syria and has claimed that she was trafficked into Isis. She is appealing against the removal of her British citizenship in 2019.