British ISIS 'matchmaker' and ex-Irish jihadi 'held by Syrian rebels'

British ISIS ‘matchmaker’ and former Irish soldier-turned jihadi bride ‘are held in Syrian rebel “safehouse” after escaping detention camps’

  • Briton Tooba Gondal and Irish woman Lisa Smith intercepted by Syrian rebels
  • They fled Ain Issa detention camp with their children during Turkish bombing
  • Syrian National Army fighters picked the pair up and took them to a ‘safehouse’
  • Both women previously begged to be allowed to return home with their children 

An ISIS ‘matchmaker’ and a former Irish soldier who became a jihadi bride are reportedly being held by Syrian rebels after escaping from a detention camp.

British Tooba Gondal, 25, travelled from her home in Walthamstow, east London, to the terrorist group’s de facto capital of Raqqa in 2015 and became one of its chief recruiters of female ISIS members.

Lisa Smith, 38, moved to Syria after her divorce in 2013 and converted to Islam. Before the breakup she was described as a ‘party girl’ and had served in the Irish army. 

They were reportedly being held at the Ain Issa camp but managed to escape during the Turkish bombardment of Syrian border towns at the weekend.


Tooba Gondal in Ayn Issa refugee camp in northeast Syria in March (left) and (right) before she fled from her home in Walthamstow, east London, to Raqqa in Syria in 2015

Irish ex-soldier Lisa Smith claims her decision to go to Syria was a mistake and wants to return home. She is reportedly being held by Turkish-backed Syrian rebel forces after fleeing a detention camp 

Both women marched several miles with their children before being intercepted by rebel fighters with the Syrian National Army (SNA), according to the Telegraph.

A rebel source told the newspaper: ‘It’s not a prison, but they cannot leave just now.’

The source also claimed to be holding women from Germany, Macedonia, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan and Turkey.  

The pair are no believed to be on the outskirts of Tel Abyad, a town on the Syrian border which was recently taken by Turkish forces and militias backed by Ankara. 

It is thought Gondal was in the camp with her two children after she was caught trying to get to Turkey following the fall of Baghuz. 

On Sunday almost 800 women affiliated with Islamic State and their children fled the Ain Issa camp where they were being held after shelling by Turkish forces caused Kurdish guards to leave the area.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched ‘Operation Peace Spring’ earlier this month to create a 20-mile buffer zone along the border to push back Kurdish forces.

The move included a bombing campaign by Turkey and followed a pullout of US troops from the north of the war-torn country.


ISIS member Lisa Smith (right and left) was a soldier in the Air Corps and was described as a ‘party girl’. The 38-year-old has a two-year-old son in Syria and was recently captured by Syrian rebels after fleeing a camp 

Lisa Smith joined ISIS after becoming radicalised following her divorce, but denied fighting for the militant group. She previously served in the Irish army 

During Gondal’s time matching Western women and girls to ISIS men, she was said to have who lured east London schoolgirl, Shamima Begum, to Syria.

Smith is also thought to have been instrumental in recruiting women to join ISIS in Syria.

In September Gondal, who married three times, said she wanted to ‘redeem myself’ and begged to be allowed come back to Britain to face justice.

The mother-of-two made a desperate plea to the British public in an open letter, in which she implored the government to allow her to return with her children. 

Mohammed, Gondal’s father, confirmed she was banned from re-entering the UK after being served with a Home Office exclusion order last November. 

Her son Ibrahim is entitled to British citizenship because his father – who was killed in a suicide bombing in Iraq – was from the UK.

Gondal was accused in the past of acting as a ‘matchmaker’ for the terrorist group and luring women to Syria to marry ISIS fighters. It is believed Bethnal Green teenager, Shamima Begum, was among her recruits. 

Images shared by the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights appear to picture people running away from the Ain Issa on Sunday amid Turkish shelling of the area 

Smoke rising over the Syrian town of Tel Abyad, as seen from the Turkish border town of Akcakale at the weekend, as Turkish military action continues

In online rants before the fall of the so-called caliphate, Gondal called Britain a ‘filthy country’ and praised the 2015 terror attack on the Bataclan theatre in Paris. 

Smith also begged to be able to come home with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar saying it would be the ‘right thing to do’ to allow her to return to Ireland. 

Speaking to the Irish Daily Mail in April, Lisa said: ‘I want to go back to my country.’

‘I wasn’t a mother when I left. I came as a single person and I thought if I died here, I died, but when I had a child I became different, you know.’

She strongly denied having fought with ISIS, claiming she never even owned a gun, despite her husband offering to buy her one for self-defence. 

President Trump has called on European countries to repatriate their own citizens caught fighting for ISIS.

Just before pulling out of the region, two surviving members of the notorious ‘Beatles’ beheading group were extracted from a jihadi prison by US forces.

El Shafee Elsheikh, 31, known as Jihadi George, and Alexanda Kotey, 35, dubbed Jihadi Ringo, could now be extradited to the US to face the death penalty.

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