Disillusioned Western jihadis who joined the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in the Middle East are now increasingly pleading with their governments to help them return home, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports, citing diplomats and a pro-defectors Syrian network.
“Some have turned up at diplomatic missions in Turkey, and others have sent furtive messages to their governments seeking assistance in escaping from territory the extremist group controls in neighboring Syria,” the WSJ learned from unnamed Western diplomats, who represent six missions in Turkey.
Western defectors have implored succor from the countries and the families they abandoned as ISIS is reportedly losing territory and manpower in Iraq and Syria and is also facing a fresh assault from U.S.-backed armed forces and the Russian-allied regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
“Father, help me,” a female teenager from Europe reportedly told her father via text message about six months ago. “I want to get out. But I now have a small child.” She traveled to ISIS’ de-facto capitol of Raqqa, Syria, in 2013 to join the group.
According to the Western diplomats cited in the WSJ report, an estimated 150 citizens from just the six countries they represent have pleaded for assistance to escape or have done so on their own since departures began to increase last fall.
“The overall number of Westerners who joined the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and then returned home is unknown, but Western officials have said several hundred fighters have come back to Europe,” acknowledges The Wall Street Journal.
ISIS does not take defections lightly. It is known to mete out harsh punishments, such as decapitations, to those caught trying to abandon the group, as the WSJ reports.
Government officials who allow back into their countries terrorists who claim to have renounced their loyalty to ISIS and other terrorists groups face a persistent threat from the jihadist group.
The WSJ indicates that jihadists intent on causing harm will pose as refugees and defectors to enter Western nations. That risk was proven real by the deadly terror attacks in Paris and Brussels, which were linked to ISIS-affiliated terrorists who entered Europe as Syrian refugees.
In November 2015, the House Homeland Security Committee warned that members of ISIS and other terrorist groups are “determined to infiltrate Syrian refugee flows” into the United States and other Western countries. President Barack Obama, however, has escalated the admission of Syrian refugees into the United States.
In September 2015, the same House committee reported that at least “several dozen” American ISIS fighters were able to sneak back into the United States without facing arrest of surveillance. The report failed to provide a specific figure.
FBI Director James Comey warned Tuesday that in terms of its efforts to recruit fighters to engage in jihad overseas and launch attacks in the United States, ISIS is America’s primary threat, the Associated Press (AP) reports.
Comey identified a third potential ISIS threat: a “terrorist diaspora” that the FBI director declared will eventually make its way out of Syria and Iraq and into Europe and ultimately the United States, “looking to kill people.”
He noted that the number of ISIS-linked FBI cases has not decreased, saying that the “FBI is continuing to focus on the Islamic State group, and there are close to 1,000 open cases nationwide involving people at various stages of recruitment.”
Comey emphasized that fewer Americans are traveling overseas to fight alongside ISIS and suggested that the misleading allure of the jihadist group that inspired fascination, devotion, and fanaticism in the United States has been nearly eradicated.
The number of Americans who have traveled to engage in jihad in the Middle East, or attempted to do so, has dramatically dropped since last summer — from about six to ten to about one or two, claimed the FBI chief.
Overall, the number of foreign fighters traveling to join ISIS in its so-called Caliphate in Iraq and Syria has dropped by 75 percent within the past year, to nearly 500 per month, according to the Pentagon.
Analysts and members of the Obama administration have said that the jihadist group has recently lost both territory and fighters.
According to a report released in March by the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress (CAP) think tank in Washington, D.C., “An estimated 27,000 to 31,000 foreign fighters from at least 86 countries have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight with the Islamic State and other extremist groups. Around 4,250 of these foreign fighters are European, and a further 250 are American.”
CAP cited The Soufan Group, a New York-based international consultancy firm, and the House Homeland Security Committee as its sources.
While ISIS has reportedly shrunk in Iraq and Syria, the group has expanded its presence by thousands of fighters in places such as Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Egypt, among other countries.