Tributes have been paid to a Kurdish sniper who fought against the so-called Islamic State and who was blasted to death in a gangland slaying.
Two Albanians and a fellow Kurd have been jailed for their part in the execution of father-of-two Hamawand Ali Hussain, in a terraced house in Hartlepool, in September 2019.
Teesside Crown Court heard how Mr Hussain, who came to the UK in 2005 and was a British citizen, was a cannabis dealer who was lured to the house and shot at point-blank range.
Police later traced CCTV images of gang members buying an axe, blades, gaffer tape, cable ties and nylon rope days before the meeting.
The prosecution said there was no clear motive for the murder, but police believed the victim had made enemies of a group of Albanian drug dealers who decided “to take him out”.
Following the trial which started in January, Kurd Noza Saffari, 39, of Park Lane, Middlesbrough; and Albanians Dorian Pirija, 33, of Trillo Avenue, Bolton; and Qazim Marku, 24, of Maxwell Road, West Drayton, London; were cleared of murder but convicted of manslaughter.
They were sentenced on Thursday, with Saffari being jailed for 15 years, and Pirija and Marku for 19 years each.
Anxhelo Xhaferi, 24, of Acton Street, Middlesbrough, who had been charged with murder was cleared and walked free.
After the case, Mr Hussain’s family released a tribute and a series of photos of him fighting against IS.
They said: “He was a brilliant father and his children saw him as their hero, a brave man who protected them.
“They knew about his involvement fighting against ISIS and felt so proud of this, as did the family and the rest of the Kurdish community.”
Cleveland Police were still seeking to trace four men in connection with the killing, including the man believed to have pulled the trigger.
Following his death, Peshmerga commanders described Mr Hussain as a great warrior.
According to reports, he returned to Kurdistan in 2014 with his British wife to fight ISIS and was injured during the offensives of Shingal and Zummar, but carried on until the end of the war.
After his death, the Kurdistan-based Rudaw news organisation quoted Brigadier General Musa Gardi as saying: “He was a genius and an active Peshmerga.
“Believe me, there were only a few like Hamawand.”