A former White Rock resident described as the first foreign woman to join in the fight against ISIS was reportedly captured over the weekend.
But proof that Gillian Rosenberg, 31, is in the custody of the Middle East extremists is yet to emerge.
And a Facebook post early Monday afternoon, purportedly by Rosenberg, unequivocally refutes the claims.
“Guys, I’m totally safe and secure. I don’t have Internet access or any communication devices with me for my safety and security,” notes the status update. “I can’t reply regularly and only happened to have a chance to log in and see these (inaccurate) news stories. Ignore the reports I’ve been captured. Yalla, Acharai!”
Various media had been reporting that Rosenberg was captured by members of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) in Syria. However, links and comments on Rosenberg’s Facebook page were also quick to dispute the claims.
“As I said before Gill Rosenberg is safe and all the allegations about her kidnap are unfounded,” writes Oliver Brimo early Dec. 1. “A short time ago the head of #YPG forces in #Kobani refuted categorically these allegations.”
Late Monday morning, Chris Levy writes, “She is safe!!!!! Friends and family of Gill Rosenberg you can breath a sigh of relief that she is alive and well.”
ISIS has been designated a terrorist organization by the United Nations.
In a news release last month, the UN security council condemned the group, and emphasized it “must be defeated and that the intolerance, violence and hatred it espouses must be stamped out.”
Rosenberg – who ran for Surrey council as a teenager in 2002, describing the city’s social policy as “a terrible failure” – reportedly only recently joined Kurdish forces in the fight against ISIS.
According to reports, she first emigrated to Israel in 2006, then was extradited to the U.S. for her role in a lottery scam.
A July 2009 FBI press release names a Gillian Rosenberg as among 11 people arrested in Israel on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud through telemarketing in connection with a lottery scheme that targeted elderly U.S. residents.
According to Rosenberg’s Facebook posts, she travelled “home” to Tel Aviv, Israel this past summer after five years in New York, and arrived in Erbil, Iraq on Nov. 2.
On Nov. 20, Rosenberg wrote that she would be without access to the Internet until “on or around” the week of Dec. 8. Until then, the account is being managed by someone else.
“Please do not message as this is not me,” she writes.
Rosenberg studied aviation at BCIT after graduating from Vancouver Talmud Torah School.
She was first featured in the Peace Arch News in March 2001, after flying to Rome with then-White Rock mayor Hardy Staub.
Staub, a pilot, recalled Monday that he was approached by Rosenberg’s mother to take the 17-year-old as part of an assignment requiring the teen to spend a few hours observing professionals in careers of interest.
After the five-day trip, Rosenberg told PAN she had dreamed of being a pilot since she was a little girl.
Her mom, Lynda, recalled at the time that her daughter, on any flights they took, would always ask her to ask the stewardess if she could sit in the cockpit.
“I remember her going up there when she was five years old, watching the pilot and talking to him about his job,” she told PAN.
Just days before the flight with Staub, Rosenberg learned she’d been accepted to Emby-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz. She was to be one of just a few women to attend, and the first practising Jewish student on campus.
She told PAN she’d been assured her gender would be an advantage, simply because of the demand for women in aviation.
Lynda Rosenberg predicted her daughter would go far – in more ways than one.
“I don’t think it’s just taking off to Arizona for four years,” she said at the time.
“I think Gillian will never come back to live in Canada.”
Gillian Rosenberg said her career choice was not motivated by money.
“I want to do something that I love,” she said.
Staub told PAN this week that he heard on Sunday that Rosenberg had been captured, when he was contacted by an Israeli reporter who asked for help locating Lynda Rosenberg.
Staub said that if the news reports were true, “the outlook doesn’t look healthy.”
Shortly before Rosenberg’s latest update, the Jerusalem Post described reports of her capture as “probably the terrorists’ propaganda.”