Sagres soldier becomes latest “deserter” to fight Islamic State

As stories of the barbarity of Islamic State continue to revolt the civilised world, a 21-year-old whose family lives in Sagres has become the latest statistic in the little-publicised backlash – people who travel to Syria to take-up arms against the radical extremists active within the country’s bloody civil war.

Mário Nunes failed to return to his Air Force base in Beja last month after a short holiday.

His Facebook page shows him to be already working for the People’s Protection Units commonly known as the YPG – the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party in Syrian Kurdistan.

According to reports, it was through Facebook that his family learnt of Mário’s departure.

At the Beja airforce base, military law led superiors to suppress the news for two weeks – the time given for deserters to return to their posts without risk of censure.

But now that that time-period has lapsed and Mário remains Absent Without Leave (AWOL), the case has been referred to military police.

It is not certain how Mário travelled, or with whom. He is understood to be with a friend.

Diário de Notícias claims Nunes travelled to Turkey and Iraq last year, returning with a tattoo saying “Death to Americans” in Arabic.

The young soldier is purported to have explained the tattoo as a ruse, to deflect attention.

His desertion comes as British media report the horrifying story of a Yorkshire man returning from fighting IS in Iraq.

Yasmir Abdulla told the Sun that an elderly Kurdish woman went to an IS base in Syria, determined to find her son who had been kidnapped by the group.

She was told that they did indeed have her son, and that if she wanted to have a meal first, they would lead her to him.

The woman had travelled a long way and was hungry, so she ate the offered soup, meat and rice and then asked to be taken to her son.

“You have just eaten him,” the IS fighters laughed at her.

It is stories like these that encourage young soldiers to desert and help in the fight against what they see as unmitigated evil. A British soldier, even younger than Nunes, was recently located and returned to his unit after he went AWOL to fight in Syria against IS.

In Portugal, reaction to Nunes’ desertion has been varied with some hailing him as a hero and others suggesting he is a hot-head who has watched too many war films.

Whatever the case, there is no talk of any mission to locate him, and his family in Sagres – described as “good people” – have refused to make any comments.

By NATASHA DONN [email protected]