More than 50 British jihadis who traveled to Syria to fight have been issued permission slips to leave Islamic State, prompting fears that some could be planning to return to Europe to undertake terrorist attacks.
Desertion is punishable by death under Islamic State law, so jihadis who want to leave the territory need to apply for paperwork which can be presented at the border. Now a huge leak of Islamic State documents to the Syrian website Zaman Al Wasl has brought that paperwork to light, showing that at least 50 British fighters were issued permission slips over the last few years.
The reasons for their travel stated on the documents include “work,” which is thought to allude to jihadist activities. Other reasons include “family circumstances” and “meeting his mother.”
Among the cache, some of which has been seen by the Times, are documents belonging to Abu Bakr al-Iraqi, a British Iraqi jihadist based in al-Shaddadi, a town in northern Syria. The records show that he was allowed to leave for “work” purposes.
When town was recaptured in February by Kurdish forces, they found a bomb making factory containing home-made explosives and live suicide vests.
The documents pertaining to Abu Bakr also show that, upon arrival he surrendered his British passport to the Islamic State authorities. Other Islamic State terrorists have been shown to have travelled on false documents procured from their fellow jihadists.
Other documents show that a Birmingham jihadist named Saeed Hamid, who joined Islamic State with a view to joining their social media operation, was given permission to leave the area due to “family circumstances.”
Hamid, who took on the name Abu Dawood al-Britani as a jihadist, never arrived home; his family were instead sent pictures of his dead body by Islamic State operatives who claimed that he had been “martyred”.
British counter-terrorism officers are thought to be investigated the documents and others like them.
The unprecedented information leak has given outsiders an invaluable insight into the detailed bureaucratic workings of Islamic State, naming more than 1700 soldiers from over 40 countries, their backgrounds, postings and hometown addresses.
Analysis of the documents has found that one in four Islamic State fighters are Saudi Arabian. Tunisians, Moroccans and Egyptians are also well-represented, making up two thirds of all fighters when added to the Saudis.
The website adds “While Turkish fighters have taken the lead among ISIS foreign fighters, French fighters come next.”
Detailed examination of the documents by Zaman Al Wasl has also uncovered information showing that a Sky News journalist, among others, are being held in Islamic State prisons.
The Arabia Correspondent, Mauritanian Ishak Moctar was kidnapped in Aleppo in October 2013 along with a Lebanese photographer, Samir Kassab, and a Syrian driver who was named at the request of the family.
The documents list the names of their captors and record that they were held in three individual cells, although their fate is unknown.