It’s a new scare for western secret services as Portugal works ‘behind the scenes’ to try and repatriate 20 children and at least two ISIS brides from holding camps in Syria: Portuguese fighter Nero Saraiva – the former ‘right hand’ of IS executioner Jihadi John – is thought to have escaped the fall of the last IS stronghold alive.
A source has told Sábado: “This changes everything. If up till now we were dealing with the problem of what to do with the women and children (of IS fighters), no-one has any idea what will happen if Nero is arrested”.
Saraiva is “more than a simple jihadist”, says the paper. “He was part of the first group of westerners to travel to Syria at the start of 2012.
“He left a trail of links that go from Tanzania to Finland, from the UK to Sweden, and he will have been involved in the kidnap and execution of western hostages by Islamic State”.
Back in 2015, a joint investigation by the Sunday Times and Expresso described Saraiva as the right hand man to Daesh’s then executioner Jihadi John (click here).
“For Portugal, if it’s true (that he is alive), his detention would give the government a problem that up till now has not existed: the prospect of having to deal with a dangerous terrorist who spent eight years in a conflict zone”, said Sábado’s source.
Bizarrely, information that Saraiva may be alive came from one of the few (possibly only two) IS brides ready to be repatriated to Portugal.
Ângela Barreto was married to a Portuguese fighter who she describes as having been ‘martyrized’.
She told RTP this week that she would willingly come back to Portugal, particularly as her eldest child (a girl, aged 3) has just died from a shrapnel wound to the dead.
Barreto claims the Portuguese government “published something online saying they want to bring us back. But they need a safe route to Erbil, in Iraq, to take us. The Red Cross also wants to help, but first the government has to confirm that it really wants to take us. Let’s see”.
Barreto told journalists that she still believes “in a State that follows the rules of Islam”.
The Portuguese government’s line on bringing nationals back from Syria is that it has to be done in collaboration with other western countries who have many more people to repatriate (click here).