An Irishman who died fighting in Afghanistan while waging Jihad has finally had his story come to light as his family battle to have his remains brought back to Ireland
John Burke from Clonmel, County Tipperary changed his name to Muhammad Omar and died fighting there in 1989. The Irish Times has turned up his records.
Burke became a Muslim radical after he left Tipperary at nineteen and moved to London where he joined a local mosque. He then went to Pakistan and later Afghanistan.
In a letter to his father, Burke described the “guerrilla-style” training he received and the period he spent at the front fighting Soviet troops then occupying Afghanistan. “We would bomb . . . with mortars and anti-aircraft guns,” he wrote. “The Russians would reply with mortars and tank fire. I always thought mortars used to whistle as they came down like in the movies, but they don’t.”
He was killed in battle near the city of Jalalabad and was mourned as a martyr in jihad publications.
Now the family want his remains brought back to Ireland after the International Red Cross has identified his resting place.
His father told The Irish Times that “My only hope was to see if I could get his body home. I wrote to everyone I could think of to see if they could help. The Red Cross eventually found out where he was buried . . . but there are still questions over whether it is his actual burial place. Other people have said he was buried in a cemetery somewhere.”
“It is still devastating to think about it even after all these years,” he said.