British woman held captive by Al Qaeda for seven months after going to Syria ‘to teach English’ is released after the terror group discover she has a history of mental illness
- The 31-year-old woman crossed into Syria from Turkey seven months ago
- She was found by Nusra Front jihadis and held in their Harem stronghold
- But she managed to send a Whatsapp message to a UK-based lawyer
- Tasnime Akunjee spent two weeks negotiating with the Islamic extremists
- Jihadis eventually released her after seeing evidence of her mental illness
A British woman who was captured by Al Qaeda in Syria and held for seven months has been released after the militants found out about her long history of mental illness.
The 31-year-old was freed after managing to send a secret Whatsapp message to London based lawyer Tasnime Akunjee, who then spent two weeks negotiating with jihadis based in Harem city.
After presenting Nusra Front fighters with evidence that the woman – who is understood to have crossed into Syria from Turkey to teach English – has a long history of mental illness, the militants agreed to release her on ‘humanitarian’ grounds without demanding a ransom.
Mr Akunjee also represents the families of three teenage schoolgirls from Bethnal Green Academy in East London who fled the UK to join ISIS earlier this year and are now feared to be members of the terror group’s fearsome all-female religious police force, known as the Al-Khansa Brigade.
Two weeks of negotiations to release the woman from East London were led by Mr Akunjee, who said the jihadis were ‘entirely reasonable’ throughout the process, according to Sky News.
‘They took into account the humanitarian issues and agreed to release her once we have proven our credentials and history of mental illness,’ he added.
The woman is understood to have been captured in the north west Syrian city of Harem last November after crossing over the border from southern Turkey.
She was immediately detained by fighters from the Nusra Front group – Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise who are also known as Jabhat al-Nusra – who held her as a prisoner in a house in the city for seven months.
Harem was captured by the Nusra Front late last year and is now considered to be the terror group’s de facto capital in the war torn country.
In recent weeks the woman managed to obtain a mobile phone and sent a desperate Whatsapp voice message to Mr Akunjee pleading for his help.
The solicitor was able to establish contact with the militants and successfully negotiate her release.
Nusra Front jihadis are said to have handed the woman to an aid charity working in the area, who helped her cross back over the border into Turkey where she was met by her relieved brother.
It is understood that no ransom was paid for her release and she will return to the UK soon.
The Foreign Office said it was aware of the release of the woman – who is not being named for legal reasons and is said to be in poor health – and is offering consular assistance.
Mr Akunjee – who is currently travelling with the group towards Istanbul en route to the UK – said the woman’s brother was ‘overcome with emotion’ to see his sister again.
The solicitor later issued a warning that ‘Nusra are easier to deal with than ISIS’ adding that the latter terror group are far less likely to enter negotiations over the safe return of British nationals.