British-trained navy officer who joined Islamic State has turned supergrass after being arrested by Kuwaiti authorities, becoming one of the most senior figures to hand over intelligence on the terrorist group.
Kuwait-born Ali Omar Mohammad Alosaimi, 27, of Kuwaiti descent, was picked up on the Iraq-Syria border on July 4, according to local reports.
Alosaimi, who had three years of merchant navy officers’ training at South Tyneside College’s Marine School – one of the UK’s most prestigious maritime colleges – left his home in South Shields for Syria in April 2014.
Alosaimi, who has since married a Syrian woman with whom he has a child, is now cooperating with Kuwaiti authorities, who said he has confessed to playing a senior role within Isil.
He said he was put in charge of oil fields in Islamic State-held territory around Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital in northeast Syria, where he managed exports. He said the group’s leaders had chosen him for his proficiency in English, expert engineering knowledge and previous experience the state-owned Kuwaiti oil company.
Isil seized control of the Syrian government’s most lucrative fields after capturing vast swathes of the east of the country in the summer of 2014. It appointed some of its most skilled foreign jihadists to run the oil business – the group’s biggest money-maker.
Alosaimi, who used the nom de guerre Abu Turab al-Kuwaiti, revealed to interrogators how Isil smuggles oil and sells it in black market to regional buyers as well as international traders at a lower price to undercut the competition. He also handed over names of individuals involved in the trade.
He said he had a “good relationship” with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, which bought oil from the Islamist group, and claimed to have attended meetings with senior Syrian officials as well as Iranian intelligence officers.
Kuwait, a US ally, has passed the intelligence on to the international coalition fighting Isil.
Alosaimi is one of only a very small number of captured senior Isil figures that has provided intelligence on the group and will likely prove crucial in the coalition’s targeting of its oil trade.
Oil is the largest source of funding for Isil, which is thought to still make as much as $30million (£23m) a month from sales despite frequent aerial attacks by the coalition.
Alosaimi’s testimony also provides some of the most concrete evidence yet of the deals cut between the Assad regime and its enemy Isil.
According to his uncle, Ali was radicalised after Abdullah, his younger brother killed in battle in Iraq in late 2013, was killed. “He seemed a changed man after his brother’s death,” he said. “He grew a beard and did not talk to anyone like he used to. He used to call his family every fortnight but he visited at the end of 2013 and that was the last we heard from him.”
A few months later he travelled to Syria, His name appears on leaked Isil “entrance forms” seen by the Telegraph, in which he described himself as a “navy officer in Britain.”
Kyle Orton, a Middle East analyst at the Henry Jackson Society think tank, said it was unusual for Western fighters to be made privy to such high-level information, and that the intelligence was a coup for the coalition.
“The capture of Alosaimi provides a valuable source of information in the war against the Islamic State,” he said. “Such information is unfortunately rare, as under the coalition’s current policy of airstrikes, there is no mechanisms for the gathering of information from inside the jihadist networks.”