ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council on Sunday published the confessions of 14 French Islamic State fighters who were recently transferred from Syria to Iraq, outlining how they traveled to the region and initiated themselves as jihadists.
The confessions were recorded in Baghdad’s Karkh investigative court, which is in charge of handling cases of terrorism based on Iraq’s Anti-Terrorism Law.
“One of them was a soldier in the French Army, served in Afghanistan in 2009,” the Council reported.
The terrorists, who are French nationals and some of them of Arab origin, received military and religious training in Syria where they joined different jihadist groups before pledging allegiance to the Islamic State, according to the confessions.
One of the defendants claimed that before traveling to Syria to fight as a jihadist, he worked as a truck driver with a cleaning company in France. He lived in the city of Figeac before traveling to Egypt to study Arabic until 2013.
“I met a friend there, while studying in Egypt, in Cairo, and he was planning to go to Syria to fight. He started convincing me [to join the fight] by showing me pictures of their operations there,” said the 33-year-old convicted terrorist.
“I traveled from Egypt to France for some time, to be with my family - my mother, my father, my wife, and my brother - all of whom later joined the organization. I traveled from Paris to Istanbul and then entered Syrian territory illegally,” he added.
The man joined al-Nusra Front in 2013 and worked as an interpreter and Arabic language teacher for foreign fighters. He then joined the ranks of the Islamic State after the declaration of the self-proclaimed caliphate in 2014. He followed military courses and was involved in the group’s administration in Homs until 2015.
He eventually went to fight on the frontlines and was injured before moving to Iraq’s city of Mosul.
Another 37-year-old detained French Islamic State member, of Tunisian origin, had also served in his country’s army and lived in Toulouse, in southern France.
“I was born in France and completed my initial studies there. I joined the French army in 2000 and continued to work for ten years, during which I was commissioned to go to Afghanistan in 2009 and carry out my duties in the French army there,” he said.
“When I returned to France and ended my contract with the French army, I started to work as a driver for an oil transport company until I married a French woman,” according to the Islamic State member.
“My reason for joining the organization [ISIS] was a desire to move to another place, and was attracted to them after researching [the group] on social media networks, as well as the organization’s websites.”
He later moved to Belgium to meet a friend who was recruiting members for the jihadist group.
The French man moved from Belgium to Morocco, with his friend covering all of his costs. He remarried, this time to a woman whom he had met on social media networks and who also wanted to move to Syria to live in territory controlled by the Islamic State.
“I illegally entered Syria’s Aleppo through Turkey and finished two religious and military courses. I then moved to Mosul in Iraq to give allegiance to one of Da’esh [ISIS] leaders, who was wearing a mask.”
He mentioned that many Islamic State leaders were afraid to show their face or disclose their identities to foreign fighters, fearing they may be recruited by foreign intelligence services as spies.
Another French terrorist of Algerian origin, 29, confessed in court, stating he studied psychology at a French University but left during his second year, in 2013, to join jihadist groups in Syria after traveling through to the Netherlands and Turkey.
“I was fully convinced to join the organization through websites, social media networks, and factions that were conceived to fight [in Europe],” in reference to sleeper cells in western states, he explained.
The terrorist “joined the ranks of the al-Nusra Front and then graduated to the Islamic State after completing military and religious courses. He pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and then moved to Iraq, in the city of Mosul, where he worked in the foreign fighters battalion.”
The Iraqi Judiciary Council has confirmed it witnessed the confessions of the 14 defendants. All of them were married in Syria and have children. Some were married multiple times and the whereabouts of their spouses remain undisclosed.
Editing by Nadia Riva