The Assyrian International News Agency relayed a report from Dubai television news concerning a raid on an ISIS safe house in Syria, in which rebel forces opposed to the Islamic State discovered a large stash of stolen Western passports. These travel documents have allegedly been used by ISIS to bring Western jihadi recruits to Iraq and Syria.
“Jenan Moussa, a correspondent with Al Aan TV noted that she was able to get copies of 34 passports issued by various countries,” reports AINA. “Six of the passports were Albanian, four were French, two each were of Holland, Germany, Sweden, Poland and Denmark; and one each of the US, the UK, Israel, Kosovo, Latvia, Israel, Finland and the Czech Republic.”
The Al Aan report says the 34 passports they reviewed were only a fraction of the total recovered in the safe house raid. Rebel forces claim ISIS “has access to thousands of stolen passports.”
Some of the passports examined by Al Aan were apparently legitimate, owned by people known to have enlisted with the Islamic State, while most were clearly stolen from innocent victims. A few outright forgeries were also mixed in with the stash.
Moussa proceeded to contact the rightful owners of several stolen passports and confirmed they had all been lost in France, where the non-French passport holders were visiting at the time of theft. The mother of an Illinois woman whose passport was retrieved from the stash said she was “shocked to hear the passport of her daughter ended up in Syria with ISIS.” Her recorded comments, delivered in classic Midwestern style, offer a bit of humorous contrast with the rest of the Dubai video embedded below.
It is not clear from the report if all of the passports in the ISIS stash were pinched in France, although Moussa’s report speculated that the terrorists might have purchased the documents from criminal gangs—perhaps a particular French gang?—or even hired criminals to steal passports from people with a passing resemblance to specific Islamic State recruits.
“I think having these passports is a huge advantage to the Islamic State,” said an expert interviewed by Al Aan. “It will allow people to move freely, so if one of them gets stopped, either in airports or on the side of the road… bearing in mind, of course, you can drive all the way from Turkey to Paris, for example… so if they get stopped on the side of the road by a police officer, that document won’t come up necessarily as something that is forged, or something that has been stolen, and that will allow [ISIS agents] to operate with a degree of anonymity and cover.”
Moussa explains “this tactic is not new,” citing previous examples of ISIS members traveling across Europe with stolen passports. Also, one of the Charlie Hebdo shooters was able to travel to Yemen for training with al-Qaeda while illegally using the passport of his brother.