Rafael Daqneesh, with his son Jassim, and the family’s storage of mortar shells that they are alleged to have shipped to Syria.
ISIS militants brought few things into Syria’s war. One of them likely came from the family of an anglophone toddler who was all that remained of a Lebanese-Canadian toddler after rockets slammed into their apartment last year.
It’s one of many mysterious cases in which international links to the civil war are found through family links that move around the world.
Samuel Daqneesh was a toddler when fighting between Syrian regime forces and ISIS destroyed his flat in Damascus in September last year. A baby born in the Syrian capital, Daqneesh is the son of Canadian Sam and Hala Suheil, who emigrated to Lebanon shortly after meeting an anglophone translator from Algeria. It was their relatives in Montreal who suggested that they transfer money to pay for Daqneesh’s medical treatment in Turkey. The money was provided to his father and his mother as well as to Daqneesh.
Daqneesh also became a friend of the family of a young man named Mohamed Suheil who was living on the sidelines of the civil war but was fighting in the frontlines at the time of the infant’s birth. To make sure he went in.
Keen to take part in the uprising against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, Suheil crossed over to Turkey last year as part of the Free Syrian Army. At the time he was fighting a steady battle against ISIS, whom he was convinced was plotting to destroy Syria’s borders. He was also fighting near the battle for Raqqa and the town of Deir al-Zour.
“Once ISIS started crossing over there they were paying ISIS fighters between $130 to $225 a month,” Suheil says. “ISIS would send someone from each region, they would leave in trucks, the truck drivers would bring them over there and they would set up shop and set up a camp…I heard they were using trains as well.”
He estimates that the revenue the network made for ISIS took on the order of about “$10- to $15-million a month.”
For a cost of $100 he had brought a few containers of powder, chemicals and fuel for cooking which he put in ISIS’s purchase order. Because the materials were purchased in Syria, it was still more trouble than he bargained for getting the goods to ISIS.
Daqneesh had a pocket knife and he told Suheil, “Piece of paper, put it in your shirt pocket, they will come and get it later.”
Daqneesh went to Turkey for further medical treatment but wasn’t able to get his medicines over the border. The metal door of his apartment was blown out by the time he fled for the relative safety of a friend’s relative’s basement apartment.
When he arrived he found his dog Shady dead from a heavy metal mallet. He tried to revive Shady by swimming in a local water fountain, despite having an iron lung. When he returned home, his mother was dead.