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Australian anti-IS fighter detained in Germany

December 4, 2015

An Australian fighting alongside a Syrian Kurdish militia against the "Islamic State" (IS) has been detained in Germany. He claims he has been charged with terrorism and will be deported.

Kurden drängen IS im Sinjar-Gebirge zurück 20.12.2014
Image: Reuters/Massoud Mohammed

Ashley Dyball, 23, was on a break from fighting against the "Islamic State" in northeastern Syria when he was detained in Germany earlier this week.

Dyball, who goes under the alias Mitchell Scott, said on Facebook that he had been detained at the eastern German Eisenhüttenstadt Detention Center and would be deported to Australia this weekend on terrorism charges.

"If anyone has a good German lawyer help a brother out been charged as a terrorist," he wrote on Facebook. His lawyer has reportedly been unable to reach him.

A spokesperson from Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed to ABC news that an Australian had been detained but would not provide more information.

Since early 2015, Dyball has been fighting with the Syrian Kurdish militia, the People's Protection Units (YPG), under their foreign fighters unit known as Lions of Rojava.

Dozens of westerners, many with military backgrounds, have joined the YPG, which is often described by US defense officials as the best fighting force on the ground against IS.

The US-led coalition against IS has provided air support and weapons to the YPG, and last month the US announced it would deploy 50 Special Forces soldiers to work alongside the group.

Several westerners, including two Australians, have died fighting against IS.

Legal questions

Dyball's case raises complicated questions about foreign fighters. While western governments are concerned about citizens supporting or joining IS, he and other westerners have joined western-backed Iraqi Kurdish and Syrian Kurdish militias fighting against the extremist group.

Under Australian law it is a crime for a citizen to join a foreign armed group. Another law passed by parliament on Friday strips dual nationals of their Australian citizenship if they fight with or support terrorist groups.

Syrien Bürgerkrieg ausländische Kämpfer bei der kurdischen YPG
Image: Getty Images/AFP/U. Onder Simsek

The YPG, the militia of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), is not considered a terrorist organization by the US and EU, though the PYD's parent party, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), is considered a terrorist organization.

Dyball's family and supporters now want the Australian government to grant amnesty to fighters battling IS.

In an online petition on change.org supporters argue the current law does not discriminate between people who join IS and those that join Kurdish forces.

"As a result the handful of Australians who have taken a moral stance against the terror and brutality of ISIL and who have traveled to Iraq and Syria to fight alongside forces in the coalition against ISIL [IS] are viewed under Australian law as criminals and treated no differently to the dozens of Australians who have illegally traveled to Raqqa province in Syria to join ISIL and declare war on humanity," the online petition states.

cw/ng (with dpa)