Western Islamic State fighters are attempting to flee home via Turkey as the terrorist group’s territory in Iraq and Syria shrinks, The Guardian reports.
Turkish security forces are reportedly capturing fleeing ISIS fighters at the Syrian border in growing numbers, although some may have slipped through. Some of the western ISIS fighters describe feeling duped by the terrorist propaganda.
U.S. citizen Kary Paul Kleman, a Muslim convert, went to Syria with his Syrian wife in 2015 to participate in what he says is humanitarian relief. Kleman told his family the information that led him to Syria “was all a scam,” but denies he was fighting for the terrorist group.
Kleman’s experience mirrors that of Mohamad Jamal Khweis, a U.S. citizen who hated life inside ISIS so much he surrendered to Kurdish security forces in Iraq. “It is very strict and no smoking there,” Khweis lamented to the press after his surrender in 2016. He continued, “my message to the American people is that life in Mosul is really very bad.”
While some fighters simply regret joining, western security officials fear they could return home to pursue domestic terror plots. As U.S.-backed forces advance on ISIS’s capital of Raqqa reports indicate the western fighters have been relocated to ensure their safety, and possibly to train them for foreign plots. FBI Director James Comey echoed these concerns at a conference in July 2016 saying that fleeing ISIS fighters make up a “terrorist diaspora.”
Comey elaborated the U.S. Anti-ISIS coalition will eventually succeed against ISIS, but that “through the fingers of that crush are going to come hundreds of really dangerous people,” drawing a parallel to the spread of al-Qaida fighters after the Afghan jihad in the late 1980s and 1990s, saying the defeated ISIS fighters will be “10 times that or more.”