BEIRUT: A former player for the Arsenal football club is fighting alongside the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), the Al-Qaeda splinter group has claimed.
However, the claims have been denied by the north London football club, who said the individual, who goes by the nom du guerre Abu Isa Andaluzi, has never represented Arsenal.
In a video posted to YouTube last week the man, who appears in a balaclava and holding a gun, urges others to join the fight against the regime of President Bashar Assad. For many foreign fighters, especially in ISIS, that fight has apparently become more about the establishment of an Islamic state than anything else.
“Those who think they cannot fight,” he says in the video, “they also should come and join us because it might be that they can help us in something else ... they can help us with medicine, financially, they can help us with advice.”
“We do not recognize the individual from the published clips and we don’t have any record of a Mr. Abu Isa Andaluzi representing the Club at any level,” an Arsenal spokesperson said.
It is possible that he was a member of a youth academy or similar program, if not a professional player.
Asking whether followers of Islam want to live among non-believers, Andaluzi questions whether one would “prefer to live among the worst of creatures.”
Extolling the virtues of Islamic rule he says that, “we have conquered many cities and we are now implementing the Shariah ... we have some areas where the kuffar [infidels] are paying us the jizya,” a tax on non-Muslims.
It is unclear where he is speaking from, but ISIS has announced the imposition of the tax, calculated in gold, on Christians in Raqqa.
He adds that letting one’s children be taught by nonbelievers might result in them having “maybe a gay, maybe a drug dealer, maybe a pedophile” for a teacher. “It’s very important for you to protect your children from these animals, these dirty people.”
Speaking in English with an accent which at times sounds British and at times Slavic, Andaluzi’s national identity is unclear, but his nom de guerre refers to Spain’s Andalucia region.
A British Foreign Office spokesperson said he could not comment on intelligence matters but a Metropolitan Police spokesperson said Scotland Yard was aware of the video and was assessing it, which, he said, did not amount to an investigation.
Thousands of foreigners, especially from Europe and Asia, have traveled to Syria to join the fight against Assad, although many of them have joined ISIS, which is accused by the opposition of working against the goals of the uprising.
Members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Iranians and Iraqis are fighting alongside Assad’s forces.
German rapper Deso Dogg was, according to some media reports, killed in a regime airstrike last year, after traveling to Syria to fight with the rebels.
And a former drummer for the 1990s Malaysian rock group Ukays is also fighting in Syria, according to observers.