British students killed in Iraq after joining Isis

Ahmad Sami Kheder, from south London, and Hisham Fadlallah, from Nottinghamshire, abandoned medical degrees in Sudan to join Isis in Syria

Two British students who abandoned medical degrees in Sudan a couple of years ago to work as doctors helping Isis in Syria have been killed in fighting, it has emerged.

Ahmad Sami Kheder , 25, originally from Carshalton in south London, is understood to have died last weekend when a convoy he was travelling with leaving Mosul, Iraq, was hit by gunfire.

Hisham Fadlallah, from Nottinghamshire, was also killed, although it is not known whether he was killed in the same incident. A source close to Fadlallahs family confirmed the deaths and said the family is flying to Khartoum for the wake.

Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi-based writer on extremist groups, told the Guardian: This information is correct. They were British-Sudanese medics killed near Mosul on Sunday.

Mosul is currently the scene of fierce battles as Iraqi forces backed by US and coalition military attempt to wrest control of the city from Isis.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said the government is aware of reports of their deaths and said: We advise against all but essential travel to Iraq and against all travel to large parts. Anyone who does travel to these areas, for whatever reason, is putting themselves in considerable danger.

Kheder and Fadlallah were among the medical students of British origin at the University of Medical Sciences and Technology in Sudan who travelled to Syria in successive waves from 2015 onwards. The Sunday Times estimated last month that 22 such people had attempted to join Isis, including several sets of siblings.

The pair left Khartoum, Sudan, for Syria in early 2015 as part of a group of nine students that also included Kheders sister Nada, 22.

In 2015 Kheder appeared in an Isis propaganda film that sought to portray the group in a softer light, including footage of babies in hospital, high-tech medical equipment and Kheder sitting at a desk with a stethoscope or teaching a class of students.

Raffaello Pantucci, director of international security studies at the Royal United Services Institute and author of a book on British foreign fighters, said Kheder and his cohort had been valuable to Isiss propaganda efforts.

They were interesting because they were showcasing a positive message for the group, he told the Guardian. This is a group thats eager to show its not just a bunch of guys chopping off heads, its doctors, engineers, everyone. And having these well-spoken British kids showing up and saying these sorts of things was quite useful for that cause.

The British medical students who left Khartoum to join Isis are believed to have been radicalised at the universitys Islamic Cultural Association, a low-key group founded in 2006 to help western students become closer to their religion. The organisation is accused of being the hub from which Isis recruited at least 24 medical students from Sudan.

The association became increasingly hardline after 2011, when Mohammed Fakhri al-Khabass, 26, from Middlesbrough, became its president. The university told the BBC he played a major role in recruiting and radicalising for Isis. His whereabouts remain unknown.

Mohammed
Kheder is understood to have been recruited by Mohammed Fakhri al-Khabass, a British man of Palestinian origin Photograph: Handout

It is believed Kheder and Fadlallah initially attended a medical faculty opposite Raqqas National Hospital after entering Syria to join Isis in March 2015. Isis opened the facility in January as part of its embryonic health ministry. Kheder later moved to work in a medical facility in Deir Ezzor province in the Islamic State, much of which remains territory occupied by Isis.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/01/british-students-killed-in-iraq-after-joining-isis

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