Rukmini Callimachi @rcallimachi Correspondent for The New York Times, covering ISIS. NBC contributor. Previously, seven years in West Africa. Ex-AP bureau chief. Ex-refugee. Jan. 06, 2019 2 min read

1. In Syria today, five ISIS fighters were captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces. Among them was at least one American, who years ago had (no joke) sent his resume and a cover letter to the the Islamic State requesting a job teaching English: 

2. Warren Christopher Clark, the 34-year-old American captured in Syria, is originally from Houston where he worked as a substitute teacher at a school district in Sugar Land. Here is the CV and cover letter he sent to ISIS, which was discovered by @SeamusHughes of @gwupoe:

3. The letter begins: "Dear Director, I'm looking to get a position teaching English to students in the Islamic State. ... I believe a successful teacher can understand students strengths & weaknesses & is able to use that understanding to help students build on their knowledge."

4. This is the mugshot of Clark that the Syrian Democratic Forces released today. According to interviews conducted by @SeamusHughes with Clark’s friends back in Texas he was so extreme in the things he said that buddies thought he might be an FBI agent trying to entrap others

5. A second ISIS fighter caught in the same raid in northern Syria by the SDF is also described as a US citizen. The press release says that Zaid al-Hamid is “originally from the US.” However, I’m starting to have doubts about that: 

6. Zaid’s name appears on a cache of internal ISIS registration forms obtained by my colleague @KaramShoumali. In those forms, he appears as a reference for a new recruit arriving in the caliphate in 2014 from Trinidad & Tobago. Here is his mugshot:

7. Usually, ISIS fighters act as “references” for other fighters coming from the same geographic zone. So why would an American be acting as a reference for a recruit from a Caribbean nation? Remember his mugshot (above) and check out this ISIS video: 

8. Starting at the 3-minute mark, you will see this gentleman who identifies himself as “Zaid” from Trinidad. He appears alongside his three children. Compare the mugshot and my stills:

9. I wish I could claim that sleuthing work was mine. It’s the work of academic Simon Cottee, who is working on a book about foreign fighters from Trinidad. Zaid appears in a database he maintains of ISIS recruits from Trinidad, and he joined ISIS in April of 2014.

10. To make sure that the Zaid picked up by the SDF and the one in his database (and the ISIS video) are one and the same, Simon Cottee sent the mugshot below to multiple people who knew him back in Trinidad. They all said it’s the same guy.

11. (Granted, he’s lost a lot of weight, thanks to the caliphate diet). Zaid’s history of extremism goes way back. In 2011, he was arrested for allegedly plotting to assassinate the prime minister of Trinidad: 

12. Now it’s possible the SDF is still correct: It could be that Zaid is a dual citizen or that he spent time in the US. Simon Cottee says he appears in at least one video where he wears the “al-Amriki” nom de guerre (“of America”.)

You can follow @rcallimachi.


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