ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Hundreds of former Islamic State (IS) fighters are fleeing the group’s territory in Syria and crossing into southern Turkey, a former militant claimed.
A 26-year-old Saudi national who fled Syria in late August told British-based publication the Guardian many former IS members were planning on fleeing the militant group’s territory.
“Most want to leave, like me,” he said. “There are not many who believe that the people they were with were on the right path.”
The Saudi national claimed the extremist group “tricked” people into joining them, and a lot of members began to realize that.
The several dozen IS defectors have gathered in Syria’s Idlib Province, with many planning to cross the Turkish border and find their way back to parts of the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe, the Guardian reported.
Some former fighters have paid smugglers USD 2,000 to help them past border guards on the southern Turkish border, the report added.
Since its emergence and eventual rise in mid-2014, the extremist group has lost large swaths of the territory it once controlled in Syria and neighboring Iraq.
The militant group was ousted from their Iraqi stronghold and de facto capital of Mosul in July.
Iraqi forces are now battling to defeat the terror group in the last remaining areas under their control.
Meanwhile, an offensive by Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by the US-led coalition, is ongoing in Syria’s Raqqa and Deir al-Zor.
The exodus of fighters from IS-controlled areas has continued throughout the past year as the extremist group has lost most of its territory.
The international community, including officials in Europe, have voiced their concern regarding the security threat posed by the return of former IS fighters.
France has even privately said they would prefer the militants die on the battlefield or face prosecution in Iraq or Syria for their crimes.
According to the Guardian report, the issue of returning IS fighters poses “significant challenges to a global intelligence community that…views them as a hostile and unmanageable threat, and sees limited scope for their reintegration.”
The full scale of former IS fighters leaving militant-controlled parts of Syria and Iraq remains unclear.
Editing by Ava Homa