Wife of British-born 'aid worker' demands Syria jihadists release him

Men affix a banner calling for the release of Tauqir Sharif to a building in the town of Atme in Syria's rebel-held northwestern Idlib province (AFP Photo/OMAR HAJ KADOUR)

Atme (Syria) (AFP) - The wife of a self-described aid worker stripped of his British nationality has called for his release after he was detained by jihadists in Syria's last major rebel bastion.

Tauqir Sharif, 33, was detained on June 22 by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a dominant group in Syria's northwestern region of Idlib, his supporters say.

"We haven't been given anything from HTS to even say what the allegations are" against him, his wife Racquell Hayden Best told AFP in the town of Atme, adding that she had been scrambling for information on his detention.

"We have heard ourselves that he is innocent. If he is an innocent man, why are you holding him in prison?" she asked.

Sharif, whose father is originally from Pakistan, hails from Chingford on the eastern outskirts of London and first arrived in Syria in 2012, according to the Live Updates From Syria organisation he founded with his wife.

Britain stripped him of his British nationality in 2017, accusing him of links to an Al-Qaeda-aligned group it did not specify, the British press has said, but Sharif has denied the allegation.

HTS has not commented on Sharif's detention, which comes at a time of heightened tensions between the group and other fighters in the Idlib region.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said Sharif was detained over his alleged ties with rival jihadists.

A fragile ceasefire has since March stemmed a Russia-backed regime offensive against Idlib.

The region is home to some three million people, a large proportion of whom have been displaced from their homes by Syria's nine-year-old war and are dependent on humanitarian aid.

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