2 Canadians freed in Syria were trying to bring children back to Canada: source

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Two Canadians who were recently released by an al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria were detained while trying to take two young children back to Canada, CBC News has learned.

Jolly Bimbachi of Chatham, Ont., travelled to Lebanon Nov. 18 to find Omar Ahmad, 8, and Abdal-Geniy Ahmad, 7, after her ex-husband, Ali Ahmad, failed to return them to Canada following a 2015 visit.

She was reunited with her sons the next day, and told CBC News at the time she was hoping to return to Canada with the boys.

Sean Moore, also from Chatham, followed Bimbachi to help her bring her children back, friend Jeff Bultje told CBC News Monday.

A government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the pair was travelling through Syria on their way to Turkey with the boys when they were grabbed by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda.

Bimbachi gave her kidnappers the number for her ex-husband and the two boys were returned to Lebanon, the official said.

The official said Bimbachi and Moore were held captive for three to four weeks, but were allowed to communicate with Canadian officials via the WhatsApp messaging service.

The official said Bimbachi and Moore weren’t threatened with harm, and no ransom money was sought or paid.

It’s not clear when Bimbachi and Moore were released, but in a statement Monday a Global Affairs Canada spokesperson said they had safely left Syria and that the Canadian government was continuing to provide them assistance.

Omar and Abdal-Geniy Ahmad

Brothers Omar and Abdal-Geniy Ahmad were taken to Lebanon by their father in 2015. (Jolly Bimbachi)

HTS not on Canada’s terrorist list

HTS has a history of renaming itself and altering its structure to confuse outsiders, and the Syrian population, about its true affiliations

As a result, it’s not on Canada’s list of designated terrorist entities after its latest name change.

That complicates things if officials ever wanted to prosecute Canadians who travel to join the group, send it money or spread propaganda on its behalf.

HTS began as the Jabhat al-Nusra (the Support Front), and was sent into Syria in 2011 by the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, now the successor or “caliph” of the Islamic State (ISIS).

Jabhat al-Nusra was led by Syrian jihadist Abu Mohammad al-Jawlani.

The United States put the group on its terrorist list in 2012, as the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, and Canada followed suit.

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2 Canadians freed in Syria were trying to bring children back to Canada: source

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