An Islamic State fighter from New Zealand nicknamed the “bumbling jihadist” says he has surrendered to Kurdish forces in Syria after the collapse of the caliphate left him in a “pickle”.
Speaking to the ABC from a prison in northern Syria, Mark Taylor - who also goes by the name Mohammad Daniel and Abu Abdul Rahman - said he had fled the terror group in December last year, when the situation for the remaining holdouts become intolerable.
“There was no food, no money, basic services were pretty much collapsed. I was in a pickle myself and had to make a final decision, which was to leave,” he said.
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The 34-year-old former New Zealand Defence Force soldier travelled to Syria to join Islamic State (IS) in June 2014, but insists he only worked as a border guard and an English teacher, and did not take part in any attacks.
“There's a difference between fighting and guarding. Guarding you don't need to plan anything; attacking you need to make preparations,” he told the ABC.
Elsewhere, in the interview, Taylor describes witnessing public executions in Raqqa and complains about the high cost of purchasing a captured Yazidi woman as a sex slave.
“I would go to the masjid [mosque] and someone would say, 'I bought a slave for five or ten thousand dollars', and I thought I'd like to have that kind of money myself, but I never had the chance, so I stuck to being married to a Syrian lady,” he said.
Taylor became notorious in October 2015, when he sent a series of IS propaganda tweets without switching off Twitter’s geotagging function, inadvertently revealing the militants’ precise location. He said he spent 50 days in an IS prison for the blunder.
In another widely reported incident, Taylor “declared he was on jihad, burned his passport and posted the charred remains on Facebook” in a 2014 propaganda video, before admitting that he had applied for a new one just three months later, the Daily Mail reported at the time.
Now hoping to return to New Zealand, Taylor “had an apology, of sorts, for his home country”, says the ABC.
“I’m sorry for causing too much trouble and being a bit hot-headed and flamboyant in my approach,” he said, acknowledging that he faced “a couple of years in prison” if granted permission to return.
New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern said the country “has an obligation not to make people stateless”, although she could not discuss the specifics of whether and in what circumstances Taylor could return to New Zealand.
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