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The ISIS Ambassador to Turkey

In the complicated relationship between the government of Turkey and ISIS, it’s unclear how much of the relationship was direct and formal, as opposed to support coming from private individuals and entities in Turkey, or in response to the vast amounts of money ISIS had to spend on a network it deployed inside Turkey to receive and funnel foreign fighters, weapons, and medical supplies into its huge state apparatus. In any case, it’s clear that every state needs diplomats to negotiate political deals with the countries near its borders. ISIS, it seems, was no exception to this rule, as ICSVE researchers learned in a February 2019 five-hour interview with an ISIS emir, Abu Mansour al Maghrebi, who claims he essentially served as the ISIS ambassador to Turkey.

“My job in Raqqa was dealing with the international cases,” Abu Mansour al Maghrebi recalls of his three years serving ISIS. “My issue [duties] was our [Islamic State’s] relationship with Turkish intelligence. Actually, this started when I was working at the borders,” he explains, harking back to the first job he undertook for ISIS before becoming an ISIS emir and, seemingly, their ambassador to Turkey.

Abu Mansour, an electrical engineer from Morocco, came to Syria in 2013. Like many foreign fighters we interviewed, he stated he came hoping to unshackle Muslims from dictatorial regimes and build an Islamic Caliphate ruled by Islamic ideals. He traveled from Casablanca, Morocco, to Istanbul, Turkey, and through the southern border of Turkey into Syria. His first stop was Idlib, Syria, just as hostilities between al Nusra and ISIS had begun. Abu Mansour ended up on the ISIS side of that rift and was assigned by ISIS the job of an intake official on the Syrian side of the Turkish border. His job was to receive the steady flow of foreign fighters streaming into ISIS via Turkey – many who shared his same dream.

“My job was to direct operatives to receive the foreign fighters in Turkey,” Abu Mansour explains, referring to the network of ISIS-paid people who facilitated foreign fighter travel from Istanbul to the Turkish border towns of Gaziantep, Antakya, Sanliurfa, etc. “Most of them were paid by Dawlah [ISIS],” Abu Mansour explains, but differentiates them from ISIS members, due to their non-ideological motivations. “Most of those working on the Turkish side, their goal is money,” he said. Although when asked about ISIS networks inside Turkey, he also admits, “Many in Turkey believe and give their bayat [oath of allegiance] to Dawlah. There are ISIS guys living in Turkey, individuals and groups, but no armed groups inside Turkey.”

In addressing the foreign fighters, Abu Mansour explains: “[They came from] different places, from North Africa mostly. The numbers of Europeans was not a big number, 4,000 total.”

“Tunis 13,000, 4,000 from Morocco. There were less fighters from Libya because they had a front there [in Libya], fighting less than 1,000. I’m just talking about up to 2015,” he adds. Not surprisingly, his figures confirm data collected on the origins and numbers of foreign fighters who joined ISIS – that the most came from Tunisia. It was interesting how he can rattle off the numbers.

“So, you were more than a simple clerk working in the ISIS reception center registering new recruits?” I ask, suspecting he was much more important than that, given his grip on ISIS statistics.

“[My job was] guarding the borders between Syria and Turkey and to receive the fighters,” Abu Mansour explains, smiling at being recognized as more powerful than he was originally conveying. “I oversaw reception at Tal Abyad, Aleppo, Idlib, all their borders,” he answers.

It’s clear he was in charge, so I ask him, “So, you were an ISIS emir?”

“Yes,” he admits, seemingly happy to be “caught out” and recognized for who he really was. “At the beginning I was registering people, then I became the supervisor. I was the emir.”

The ISIS Foreign Fighters

We discuss the women who came into Syria via Turkey. “The single females, they go directly to Raqqa to the centers for singles. Married women go to their husbands,” he explains. He states that those wives [couples] stay in the ISIS female guesthouses: “Since they are family, they are offered a place to live until their husbands finish trainings.” He is referring to the ISIS military and weapons training and the ISIS “obligatory shariah training” in which new male recruits are taught the ISIS takfir ideology, an ideology that justifies use of violence against those considered heretics or unbelievers, including against fellow Muslims.

Abu Mansour explains the format and nature of intake forms that were filled out at the ISIS reception area. “It was a form about experience, countries you visited, etc. I don’t remember it very well, but it was very detailed,” he explains. He further continues, “There were several people who came with higher education. We wrote his discipline, his studies, his languages. These things were recorded on my forms.” According to Abu Mansour, job placements occurred after another intake took place inside the training camps. “At those places, there were very trusted people running the ISIS offices of recruiting, so if you say you’re an engineer, they put you to that kind of job. It was an office of human resources management,” he states, adding, “but of course different, because in ours we also had, ‘I want to be a martyr.’”

Martyrs and Those Returning to Become Sleeper Cells

Asked to explain what happens to those who came saying they wanted to “martyr” themselves, he answers, “There are specific centers interested in these things.

Before 2014 and 2015, a high number of them were willing to martyr themselves.” Abu Mansour explains that those who came to die for the Islamic Caliphate were more plentiful in the beginning. “Approximately 5,000 came to be martyrs. I didn’t send them to the center,” he states, referring to where the would-be suicide cadres were isolated and encouraged on their death missions. He further continues, “I only record him and send them to the training camp. Then there is a center in Raqqa. There is a central management who control who is assigned where. That was not my job.”

According to Abu Mansour, the numbers of would-be “martyrs” went down as the Caliphate was in fact established. “It started to go down as Raqqa stabilized. [Then,] most came simply to live. It was a small ratio of those who came to martyr themselves.” Adhering to his uncanny ability to remember exact recruiting figures, he explains, “Before 2014, 50 percent came to martyr themselves. Then it went under 20 percent.”

“During 2014 and 2015, we had approximately 35,000 [foreign fighters who] entered,” Abu Mansour recounts. “After that I don’t know, but the numbers declined each year,” he continues. His numbers match those of experts who estimate at least 40,000 foreign fighters went to Syria, most ending up in ISIS.

Concerning those who were invited by the ISIS emni to train and return to their home countries to attack, as was revealed by Harry Sarfo, an ISIS returnee incarcerated in Germany, and an ISIS smuggler speaking to ICSVE in February, who detailed some of those operations, Abu Mansour explains, “We are the point of reception. It was not our job to ask if they will return to attack. That was Raqqa’s job.”

Although he confirms that it did happen. “There were some who invited others to go back home and attack, but it was not our job; we were reception,” Abu Mansour repeats. “It exists, but not all the people who returned home [are sleeper cells]. Many simply quit the job. Many people didn’t like the situation and left,” he clarifies, putting some myth to the statements made by some that a large portion of the ISIS returnees in Europe may be part of sleeper cells. “There was a central management in Aleppo and in Raqqa,” Abu Mansour states, adding, “I turned the passports to them. They were archived.”

Becoming an ISIS Ambassador

“I went to Raqqa after the coalition assault against the border,” Abu Mansour recalls. “Eastern Syria got stability in Raqqa, etc.” This was in 2015 and 2016. When we ask Abu Mansour if injured ISIS fighters were allowed to cross the border and receive medical care in Turkey, things suddenly take another twist, as we realize that Abu Mansour was not only an emir, but an ISIS diplomat.

“There were some agreements and understandings between the Turkish intelligence and ISIS emni about the border gates, for the people who got injured,” Abu Mansour continues. “I had direct meeting with the MIT [the Turkish National Intelligence Organization], many meetings with them.”

When we ask who exactly in the Turkish government was meeting ISIS members, he states, “There were teams. Some represent the Turkish intel, some represent the Turkish Army. There were teams from 3-5 different groups. Most meetings were in Turkey in military posts or their offices. It depended on the issue. Sometimes we meet each week. It depends on what was going on. Most of the meetings were close to the borders, some in Ankara, some in Gaziantep.”

When he mentions meeting Turkish government officials in Ankara, the capital of Turkey, we suddenly upgrade him in our minds to an ISIS ambassador, which is indeed how he was functioning. “I passed the borders and they let me pass. [At the border,] the Turks always sent me a car and I’m protected. A team of two to three people from our side were with me. I was in charge of our team most of the time.”

Abu Mansour, it seems, was meeting high-level officials in all the security branches of the government, negotiating deals. “The subject of common benefits is a big subject,” Abu Mansour states, adding, “It’s a new thing when you create a state and separate it from the outside world. The negotiations were not easy. It took a long time. Sometimes it was hard.”

“I am not the big guy you are talking about,” says Abu Mansour, demurring at the idea that he was an ambassador of sorts. He stated ambassador is not a term they would have used in the Islamic State. Yet, as he continues, we learn that his “diplomatic” reach on behalf of ISIS extended even to the president of Turkey himself. “I was about to meet him but I did not. One of his intelligence officers said Erdogan wants to see you privately but it didn’t happen.”

Abu Mansour explains, “I got my orders from the representative of the Majlis al Shura, from Mohamed Hodoud, an Iraqi. The individuals of the [ISIS] shura have the highest authority; they create a negotiation committee, and delegates.” In regard to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, Abu Mansour admits, “I saw him for a short while,” which is more than most ISIS members can say of the elusive leader who hid himself from almost everyone we have managed to interview (n=141 ISIS cadres).

The Islamic State’s Usefulness for Turkey

We ask if this was a funding relationship. “There was no changing money between us,” Abu Mansour answers, and agrees it was a coordinating function – diplomacy where “both sides benefit.” The benefit to Turkey, according to Abu Mansour, was that “we are in the border area and Turkey wants to control its borders – to control Northern Syria. Actually they had ambitions not only for controlling the Kurds. They wanted all the north, from Kessab (the most northern point of Syria) to Mosul.”

“This is the Islamists’ ideology of Erdogan,” Abu Mansour explains, adding, “They wanted all of the north of Syria. That is what the Turkish side said [they wanted], to control the north of Syria, because they have their real ambitions. Actually, we talked about what Erdogan said in public [versus what he really desired.] This part of Syria is part of the Ottoman states. Before the agreement following the Second World War, Aleppo and Mosul were part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. The agreement Sykes Picot [in which they lost these regions] was signed for one hundred years. In our meetings, we talked about re-establishing the Ottoman Empire. This was the vision of Turkey.”

Abu Mansour makes it clear that what he was told in his meetings with Turks was put forward as President Erdogan’s vision, but that it was not necessarily shared by all: “I cannot say that this is the vision of the whole Turkish government. Many are against interfering to bring this project to reality. They say we will try to defeat the PKK and Kurds. We are afraid of the union between Kurds and that they may make a Kurdish state, but they also expanded to Aleppo,” he adds regarding Turkish aspirations inside Syria.

Abu Mansour continues, “Since they are a NATO state they cannot make NATO angry against them. So, they cannot deal directly with the situation, but they want to destroy the Kurdish ummah, so they deal with the situation [via ISIS] and get benefits from the Islamic State.”

On the side of ISIS, he explains, “It’s a big benefit to Dawlah, as they could protect our back. Approximately 300 km of our border is with them. Turkey is considered a road for us for medications, food – so many things enter in the name of aid. The gates were open.”

However, on the subject of getting arms from Turkey, Abu Mansour clears the Turks of any guilt, stating, “No one can accuse the Turkish government that they gave us weapons, because we got weapons from different sources. Actually, we didn’t need to get weapons from Turkey,” he explains, noting that the Free Syrian Army soldiers would trade their weapons for a pack of cigarettes. “Anti-government Syrian people provided us with weapons; many mafias and groups traded weapons to us.”

“In Syria the oil was enough to pay for the weapons and everything needed,” Abu Mansour continues. “[Our oil revenues] were more than $14 million per month and half of this oil money is more than enough to pay for everything needed for our weapons expenditures.” When I remark on the huge amount of $7 million per month for weapons, Abu Mansour states, “It’s actually a small amount. Turkey sometimes opened an operation in which the management for one battle is $10 million.” When pressed for more figures on the total ISIS budget, Abu Mansour says he’s been in captivity for 1.5 years and doesn’t remember the total ISIS budget anymore. Yet it sounds like he once knew it well and in detail.

Negotiating for Crossing the Turkish Borders

“We negotiated to send our fighters to the hospitals [in Turkey]. There was facilitation – they didn’t look at the passports of those coming for treatment. It was always an open gate. If we had an ambulance we could cross without question. We could cross [into Turkey] at many places. They don’t ask about official identities. We just have to let them know.”

When asked to explain exactly how this occurs, Abu Mansour explains, “When the person gets injured, there is hospital in Syria, and this hospital sends him in a car to the border. There were ambulances on the Turkish side waiting for this person. There were doctors who disliked Bashar. They treated our guys. The MIT was made aware of every critical situation and they sent the ambulances to the border. There were also hospitals close to the border. Those who received critical care were treated there and they [the MIT] sent the others all over Turkey depending on their needs. There were very interested doctors, Syrian and Turkish, who wanted to help. So, if there were not facilities to serve them on the border, they would be sent further into Turkey for this.”

We ask who paid the medical bills. “Dawlah [ISIS] paid for the treatments, but some Turkish public hospitals took these fighters for free. It was not only for our fighters but also for the victims of bombings. I don’t know how many were treated in Turkey, but it was routine,” Abu Mansour explains, adding that it was not his area, so he doesn’t have the figures on that. “I just know this agreement to open the gates for our wounded and that there were ambulances sent for them. It was a ‘state-to-state’ agreement regarding our wounded. I negotiated these agreements. For the wounded, medical and other supplies to pass, and I negotiated about water also, the Euphrates.”

Negotiating for Water

The water issue was crucial for ISIS, actually, allowing them to have water for farming and to generate electricity through dams. “Actually, we [Syria] had an agreement with Turkey for 400 cubic meters per second [of water] into Syria. After the revolution, they started to decrease the quantity of water to 150 cubic meters per second. After our negotiations [in 2014] it returned to 400. We needed it for electrical power and as a vital source of living. Even water we cannot keep it, it passes to Iraq also,” he explains. “But the importance of water [cannot be understated]. We don’t need to generate electricity through the dams. We could have another source [i.e. petrol], but we need water for farming. There are three dams. The biggest is Tabqa dam. Actually, at 150 cubic meters, we could generate some electricity, but if the level of the lake reached 5 meters it would not work.”

“It took a long time to negotiate,” Abu Mansour explains. When asked what ISIS gave in return for water, he answers, “There is the most important benefit – their country will be safe and stable.” We ask if he means that ISIS agreed not to attack inside Turkey.

“In negotiations I could not say I would attack Turkey. This is the language of gangs, but I would say we will try to keep Turkey from the field battle, we will not see Turkey as an enemy. They understood what we are talking about. We said many times, ‘You are not our enemy and not our friend.’”

Abu Mansour explains that ISIS dealt both with Turkey and Assad’s regime to manage the Tabqa dam as well as other resources under their control. “At the end when Raqqa was encircled, the coalition forces tried to control the rooms for the dam. There was no control. All the gates were closed and the level of water rose. Rumors were that it would burst, but this was not technically true.” To fix the issue ISIS sent for Assad’s engineers to try to manually open the gates. “About these engineers, this is a company that belongs to the Assad regime. When he tried to fix the gate and open it manually, he was hit by the coalition forces. He died in Raqqa.”

Oil Sales

Regarding the sale of ISIS oil, Abu Mansour admits, “Most of the Syrian oil was going to Turkey, and just small amounts went to the Bashar regime.” Abu Mansour claims he did not need to negotiate these sales directly with the Turkish government officials as “this happened spontaneously.”

“There are many traders to do that and Turkey was the only market in which to send oil. Their traders paid for the oil that went into Turkey,” he explains making clear that although Erdogan’s son is believed to have been enriched by ISIS oil, that the deals occurred via middle men. “Oil that went to the Syrian government – some went by pipes, some by trucks. Oil sent by Dawlah [ISIS] to Turkey was arranged by traders from Turkey who came to take the oil with our permissions. Traders came from the Syrian side also.”

Negotiating for the Release of Turkish Diplomats, Soldiers and Citizens

When asked about the negotiations for the release of the Turkish diplomats and workers after ISIS took Mosul, Abu Mansour explains, “The negotiation happened in Syria. Actually, [ISIS] entry in Mosul was not a surprise takeover in one day. It took many days, but I think the Turkish government told their consul not to leave Mosul. Many Turkish truck drivers were also in Mosul at that time. They were not in danger, but there was a negotiation to release them. Islamic State made demands as well. It took time.”

“We didn’t ask ransom for the consul employees, we asked for our prisoners. MIT knows their names.” For the consul employees, “approximately 500 prisoners were released from Turkey, and they came back to Dawlah,” Abu Mansour explains.

In regard to the soldiers guarding the tomb of Suleyman Shah that Turkish soldiers had permission to guard inside Syria, which was taken by ISIS in 2014, Abu Mansour states, “It wasn’t liberation of their soldiers. They had 45 guards that they changed every 6 months. They changed at the time of FSA [being defeated]. Turkey made it look like they got liberated [when ISIS took over] but it was really just the change of guards. [Likewise,] at that time we didn’t want to open problems with Turkey. It would have been an obstacle to our work, so we gave them back.”

Turkey’s Double Game with the West

According to Abu Mansour, in 2014 Turkey was trying to play a double game with the West: to allow foreign fighters into Syria but make it appear as though they were taking measures to prevent it. “Turkey wanted to make it easy for foreign fighters to cross the borders,” Abu Mansour explains. “They just want to control, they need to be known, and how they enter, so they ask me to tell who has entered and where. Actually, the Turkish side said, ‘You should reduce, change the way you do it, the way you cross. For example, don’t come with a group to enter because it’s clear that a bunch of people entered. Enter only specific gates. Come without any weapons. Don’t come with long beards. Your entry from north to south should be hidden as much as possible.’”

“For example, the EU guys were very distinguished with their beards so they should come at night and cross, and they should not come in groups as before, to hide it. For Europeans, it depends on the person. If he can mix with Syrians he can come without being noticed – the Arabs, they can enter normally.” We didn’t ask Abu Mansour if the European Arabs were given fake Syrian passports to enter, but we did learn from other ISIS members we have interviewed that fake Syrian passports were provided by ISIS operatives to Europeans and others while still in Istanbul. Likely, these are the persons Abu Mansour is saying could enter normally through the border gates as they could easily pass for legitimate entries from Syria into Turkey by appearance and documentation.

“[In 2014,] they opened some legal gates under the eye of Turkish intel that our people went in and out through,” Abu Mansour explains. “But, entry into Syria was easier than return to Turkey. Turkey controlled the movements.”

For those who could not pass as Syrians legally crossing into Syria, Abu Mansour explains that they used “specific ways provided by smugglers” and that “of course Dawlah pays them.” He also notes that when smugglers worked for years, “of course they are recruited to [Turkish] security services, too.” Yet these persons were never completely trusted by ISIS as they were in it for the money only. “The smuggler is like a trader, a guy with a taxi – you pay him, but you don’t trust him. He isn’t necessarily loyal, [he has] maybe some sympathy to the Syrian side.”

An ISIS Ambassador in Ankara

“Our negotiations took place one time in Syria, second time in Turkey and so on, [back and forth],” Abu Mansour explains, and most often “near the borders, close to the official gates.” However, in 2016, Abu Mansour was asked to present himself in Ankara and stay for a few weeks. “They asked us to stay for a while in Turkey, perhaps to meet with President Erdogan. At this time in 2016, before the military assault on Manbij between June to September 2016 (May to August 2016), Turkey was trying to withdraw from the Islamic State. I went to stay in Ankara.”

Suddenly terrified at the idea that we could have been at the same hotel in Ankara during one of my many visits there, I ask him with horror filling my voice where he stayed. “There was a private guest hotel, an intelligence guest house. I think I was in the specific place of their headquarters office, or maybe it’s a crisis cell. I stayed one week.” Still fixated on the chance that I could have unknowingly crossed paths with an ISIS emissary in Turkey, I ask if he went out on the town during the days or at night. “They do not refuse if I ask to go out. I was under their protection. They also suggested if I want to take one week for rest here that I could.” Indeed, we could have crossed paths…

Negotiating a Buffer Zone

“There were ups and downs with Turkey,” Abu Mansour states. Likewise, there were factions inside ISIS that didn’t agree with one another. “After the Manbij events there were many changes and there was always internal conflict in the Islamic State. Turkey asked us many times for a separate area between Turkey and Syria for a safe zone. They wanted 10 km for Syrians to live but under control of Turkey.”

It’s interesting to note that even ISIS was considered a danger to the Turks, as they now claim the Syrian Kurds are. “Turkey wanted us to move 10 km back from the borders so the danger from Turkey is removed. They wanted it to be under control of Turkey and no aviation above it. This was for an area 60 km long and 10 km wide.”

ISIS Attacks in Turkey

We ask him how things went wrong with Turkey – that ISIS began attacking at the airport and at the Reina nightclub and on the streets in Ankara and Istanbul. “The operation of bombing in Turkey was not political. I was in Turkey and they thought I have a link with these things. I was in Gaziantep when the [Istanbul] airport was attacked,” he replied. “When those things happened, they thought it was something prepared from the political side of the Islamic State, but that’s not logical. We are there and attacking them?”

“It was directed from Raqqa,” Abu Mansour explains. “The ISIS external emni ordered it. And I think that there were Turkish MIT guys inside the external emni. I suspected that the striking at the airport was not for the benefit of IS, but Turkish groups of IS who wanted to strike Turkey, or they were affected by other agencies that don’t want a relationship between Dawlah and Turkey. It makes no sense, otherwise, because most of our people came through that airport. These orders for these attacks in Turkey were from those MIT guys inside Dawlah but not from our political side. They didn’t want to destroy Erdogan, just change his road in the matter of the Syrian issue. They wanted him to use his army to attack Syria, and to attack Dawlah. The airport attack makes a good excuse for him to come into Syria.”

“It’s not a conspiracy theory,” Abu Mansour insists, telling us that when he was imprisoned in YPG prisons, before being moved to Iraq, he heard “that the Turkish government, after they were in Raqqa, took 40 persons out that were part of Turkish security agencies.”

While what he heard could be true, it doesn’t mean that these Turkish intel actors were working with ISIS. They may have been Turkish intel planted inside the organization to keep tabs on it. Yet, Abu Mansour insists that Turkey, and President Erdogan with his “Islamists’ aspirations” was working hand in glove with ISIS and reminds us, “If you go back to Erdogan’s history, in 83 to 87, he was a fighter in Afghanistan. This stuck with him.”

Dashed Dreams of an Islamic State

Abu Mansour’s journey started in Morocco when he was a young man and where he first watched the 9/11 events from afar and suddenly began to feel that if he wasn’t with them, as U.S. President Bush stated, he was against them – that Muslims in the world needed to unite and resist dictators and world powers, like the U.S.-led coalition that invaded foreign countries. “After I heard George Bush say it’s you are with us or against us – when I heard that [and saw his invasion of Iraq] I searched for who stands up for the Muslims.”

Abu Mansour began following the actions of leaders of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, and learning militant jihadi teachings over the Internet. “The invasion of Iraq affected deeply in the heart of Muslims more than Afghanistan,” he explains. “We start to build ourselves at that time. We know that we are fighting very smart people and we have to prepare very well. Those groups who chose the resistance [in Morocco] would start and then they were captured, which made me to be very alert, and very patient to chose when to resist.”

Abu Mansour waited until 2013, when he became convinced that the time was right and an Islamic State could be created in Syria, at which time he was already fully committed to come and help bring it to fruition. “We were searching for the identity of Muslims, to protect Muslims and to be freed to do our Islamic duties. There was no desire to fight, no tendency to kill or revenge, just to free ourselves from dictators. I use the weapon to prevent harm by others and all that is taken by force should be regained by force,” he explains. “All these government regimes, we were forced to follow, we didn’t chose them.” Indeed.

Now imprisoned, he has had time to reflect on whether or not the dream of a just and good Islamic State is even possible and if ISIS had any chance of bringing it to reality.

“Today I feel really tired,” he confesses. “It’s not like you see it. Most were not educated people in IS. Most have some reasons for joining, how they collect them to make this state, who collects them, the matter is really strange,” he reflects, sadness filling his eyes. “While we came to save Muslims from the authoritarian control of the Syrian regime and to build these things [the ISIS dream,] we were shocked and we fell into the same that they were in. There are many people in authority in the Islamic State that are dictatorial. Sometimes I feel like we were used like a paper burned and discarded. We tried to remove Assad and replaced with worse than Assad.”

“The practices used against the Syrian people, it was very violent. The people under the authority of IS, they don’t care about the education system. They just wanted to extract the oil, etc. They didn’t give thought to the poor people, to enhance their life levels, to be taken care of. Likewise, under Bashar, the Ba’ath Party regime has a very violent security agency, but ISIS built worse than this – the emni security system. Also, they divided the people into fighter and non-fighters, and the fighters were not punished like they punished the others,” he said.

“In Raqqa there were bodies on the roads in different places, actually when you pass through the squares and roads you see hanging bodies. There were hangings, torture with electricity… They are not good people. They try to take benefit from their places. Each one has a desire to control.”

“My search was not for power, or getting authority or ruling,” Abu Mansour claims, and he may be speaking honestly. Once representing ISIS as an ambassador, representing a short-lived, but powerful state, he is now powerless, sitting in an Iraqi prison, facing a death sentence – his dreams dashed completely.

Special thanks to the Iraq Counter Terrorism Services, ICSVE’s partner in Iraq, supporting ICSVE’s research on behalf of our Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative Project.

Homeland Security Today

Anarchist Struggle Fighter Falls Martyr on the Frontlines in Rojava

On Monday, March 18, anarchist Lorenzo Orsetti fell martyr in Baghouz, the last territorial stronghold in Deir Ezzor. He fought as a member of Tekoşîna Anarşîst (Anarchist Struggle) and was a companion of Tikko. Orignally from Florence, Italy, he fought in Rojava for a year and a half, including in defense of the Turkish invasion of Afrin.

His message to those who continue to struggle: “Ciao,

If you read this message, it is a sign that I am not in this world anymore. Bah, don’t be so sad, I’m doing well; I have no regrets, I died doing what I thought was the right thing, defending the weak, and being loyal to my ideals of justice, equality, and freedom. So, in spite of my premature departure, my life has been a success, and I am almost sure that I went with a smile on my lips. I could not have asked for better. I wish you the very best, and I hope that you too one day (if you have not already done so) decide to give your life for others. Because it is only like this that the world can be changed. Only by overcoming the individualism and selfishness in each one of us, can the difference be made.

These are difficult times, I know, but don’t fall into resignation, don’t abandon hope; never! Not for one moment.

Even if everything seems lost, and the bad things that afflict humans and the earth seem unbearable, keep on finding strength and inspire it in your comrades. It is exactly in those darkest moments that your light helps.

And always remember: ‘Every thunderstorm begins with a single drop’. Try to be this drop.

I love you all, and I hope that you treasure these words. Serkeftin!

Orso, Tekoşer, Lorenzo.”

From Tekoşîna Anarşîst: “Today our comrade Heval Tekoşer Piling fell şehid in battle in Baghouz. He was a great friend to all of us and an incredibly brave soldier. Many of us had the pleasure of fighting by his side. From Afrin to Deir Ezzor, he was always the last to leave. Şehid namirin!”


German ISIS members in YPG custody in limbo

Following the call US President Donald Trump made, the discussion on the future of German citizen ISIS members in YPG custody has heated up. Some politicians demand the ISIS members be stripped of their citizenship.

Despite ongoing calls by the Rojava Kurdistan administration, the German state has been unbothered by their citizens who joined ISIS and were captured alive in YPG operations in northern Syria. According to official numbers from German authorities, 1050 individuals joined ISIS from Germany. Most of them were killed in conflicts, some returned to Germany and some were captured by YPG forces and the Iraqi army.

There were 200 German citizens in YPG custody, most of them women and children with 40 adult German citizen ISIS members who had committed crimes. The disinterest by the federal German government continued until US President Donald Trump posted on Twitter last weekend and said, “The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial.”

Up to now, the Berlin administration had posed excuses like, “We don‘t have official representation in Syria, so we don‘t have complete information on German citizens in the region.” Following Trump’s pressure, the issue has become a priority for the federal government led by Angela Merkel.


Some commentators in mainstream German media say some politicians and experts are calling for the construction of a prison for ISIS members like the US did in Guantanamo for Al Qaeda, or for the ISIS members to be put on trial in an international war crimes tribunal in the Hague.

But lawyers say both versions go against the German constitution. Former Minister of Defense and criminal justice judge Professor Rupert Scholz said, “Our laws will never allow for something like Guantanamo. We cannot issue an arrest warrant for a criminal without them facing a judge. Germany is faced with a very tough mission, and the country must take back its citizens.”

Expert on the constitution Professor Ulrich Battis said Germany’s laws prevent the country’s citizens to be tried in the international criminal court in the Hague. Prof. Battis said a war tribunal can be set up in the Hague if there is no way to set up court in a country, and added: “Such a court should be set up in Germany, not in the Hague.”


Baden-Wurttemberg Minister of Interior Thomas Strobl joined the discussion and called for the ISIS members to be stripped of German citizenship. The Christian Democrat politician Strobl spoke to Bild and said, “According to our laws, any person who joins a foreign army should be stripped of their citizenship. This law should be utilized for individuals who joined the terrorist organization ISIS.”

But experts say stripping individuals of their right to citizenship is not easy. Criminal justice judge Prof. Rupert Scholz said the law applies only for dual citizens and pointed out that although ISIS claimed to declare a state, it doesn‘t have the actual status of a state in the international arena.

Minister of Interior Horst Seehofer said the repatriation of ISIS members should be conditional. Seehofer spoke to Suddeutschen Zeitung and said, “Before they get on a plane, all their criminal files must be inspected where 5hey are and then they should be admitted.” The minister proposed a strict effort for those with serious crimes to not disappear in Germany, and added: “I do not want to admit dangerous individuals who may risk our security.”

Similar discussions continue in other European countries. Government officials in Denmark and the UK openly announced that they won‘t repatriate their citizens who joined ISIS. France, Indonesia, Russia, Morocco and the Sudan have appealed to the Rojava administration to take back their citizens who were captured alive by the YPG.

Special units in the YPG have captured over 2.800 ISIS members in operations in Northern Syria to date. These individuals are held in prisons in Rojava Kurdistan, and over 800 of them are foreign fighters who hold citizenships in 46 countries in total, most of which are Western states.


Police beat minors in southeastern Turkey
Van Bar Association published photos of minors subjected to torture at police station in Van

Three Kurdish teenagers said they were subjected to police torture during detention in Turkey’s southeastern city of Van, lawyers from the Van Bar Association reported on Sunday.

Turkish police on Feb. 15 detained the three teenagers, aged between 14 and 17, and used violence against them during and after their detention in Van’s Ipekyolu district, according to victims’ statements. The youngsters told the Van Bar Association that the police beat them, kicked them in the head, hit them with batons and put their heads into toilet bowls, the Ahval news site reported.

“After I came home from work, the police detained me due to incidents in the neighborhood and got me on the ground. They struck my back with batons. They kicked me in the stomach with their boots, pulled my hair and hit me in the face. They took me to the police station [near the Tuşba Shopping Center] and continued beating me there. They put my head into a toilet bowl and insulted me,” one of the victims, aged 17, said.

A 16-year-old victim said the police mistreated him as well. “They questioned me at the police station, but I told them I knew nothing. They beat me and swore at me.”

The third victim, a 14-year-old Kurd who lost partial vision in his left eye due to the police torture, said he was going shopping when the police detained him.

“Eight police officers assaulted me. …They took me to the police station after they beat me on the street. They put my head into a toilet bowl. Right now, there is blurriness and itching in my left eye.”

The Van Bar Association said hospital reports proved the three teenagers were mistreated and subjected to torture, sustaining serious injuries.

Perihan Duman, the mother of one of the detained minors, said: “I am haunted by images of my son. I haven’t been able to sleep for two days,” while his father, Hacı Duman, added, “The police called us at 3:30 a.m., long after my son was detained and badly beaten.”

The bar association filed a criminal complaint against the police officers involved the incident.

The families claim the police try to extend detention of minors, hoping that signs of torture will disappear in time. (SCF with Ahval, Bold Medya)

Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF)



„Folter an Minderjährigen wird zur Normalität“

Drei Minderjährige werden am 15. Februar in Wan festgenommen und anschließend von den Sicherheitskräften misshandelt. Die Rechtsanwaltskammer sieht einen direkten Zusammenhang zwischen der Folter und der Haltung der AKP-Regierung.

Am 15. Februar wurden in dem Bezirk Ipekyolu in Wan (Van) drei Minderjährige festgenommen und anschließend von den Sicherheitskräften misshandelt. Das geht aus den ärztlichen Attesten der 14-, 16- und 17-jährigen Jugendlichen hervor. Alle drei befinden sich weiterhin in Gewahrsam. Die Rechtsanwaltskammer von Wan kündigte an, juristisch gegen die Misshandlung der drei Minderjährigen vorzugehen.

Die Jugendlichen waren am Abend des 15. Februars festgenommen worden. Anschließend wurden sie in der Leitstelle der Sicherheitskräfte am Kopf und Körper mit Fußtritten und Schlägen mit den Gewehrkolben traktiert. Später wurden zudem die Köpfe der Minderjährigen in Toiletten eingetaucht.

„Folter wird zur Normalität“

Cemal Demir von der Rechtsanwaltskammer Wan sieht einen Zusammenhang mit den zunehmenden Foltervorfällen im Land und der Haltung der türkischen Regierung. Trotz der vermeintlichen Bekenntnisse der Regierung zur „Null-Toleranz für Folter“ seien Vorfälle wie nun in Wan niemals von der Tagesordnung der Türkei verschwunden. „Im Gegenteil, Foltervorfälle wie jüngst in Wan sind zu Normalität geworden. Es gibt zahlreiche Beispiele dafür. Es gibt kein ernstzunehmendes Vorgehen der Regierung gegen die Folter. Die allgemeine Straflosigkeit gegen Foltervergehen führt zu einem sprunghaften Anstieg von Misshandlungen und Folter in Gewahrsam. Dass Minderjährige in Wan dieser menschenverachtenden Folter ausgesetzt wurden, darf nicht missachtet werden. Die Verantwortlichen müssen auf schnellstem Wege identifiziert und hart bestraft werden“, so Demir.

Die Rechtsanwaltskammer von Wan berichtet, dass sie den Vorfall in Wan weiter verfolgen werden. Die drei Folteropfer wurden mittlerweile in eine Jugendstrafanstalt überbracht. Bevor sie dorthin verlegt wurden, habe man bewirken können, dass sie einer ärztlichen Untersuchung unterzogen werden. Dort konnten die Foltereinwirkungen attestiert werden. Die Anwält*innen halten weiter Kontakt zu den drei Minderjährigen. Ihre Berichte über die Folter wurden dokumentiert und ein Beschwerdeverfahren zu dem Vorfall bei der Staatsanwaltschaft von Wan eingeleitet. Die Rechtsanwaltskammer werde den Fall weiter verfolgen.



HIER ( auf türkisch )

Kurden fordern internationale Sondergerichte in Syrien

Europa tut sich schwer mit Donald Trumps Forderung einer Rücknahme heimischer IS-Kämpfer. Syrische Kurden schlagen deshalb internationale Sondergerichte auf syrischem Boden vor.

Die europäischen Heimatländer reagieren nur zaghaft auf die Forderung einer Rückholung ihrer Staatsangehörigen – nun haben syrische Kurden die Vereinten Nationen aufgerufen, in dem Bürgerkriegsland internationale Sondergerichte für inhaftierte IS-Kämpfer einzurichten. Im Norden Syriens gebe es nicht die Möglichkeit, die Terroristen juristisch zu verfolgen, sagte der Sprecher der Syrischen Demokratischen Kräfte (SDF), Mustafa Bali. Prozesse unter dem Dach der UN könnten hingegen eine Lösung sein, die alle zufriedenstelle.

Die von den Kurden angeführten SDF-Truppen gehen derzeit im Osten Syriens gegen die letzte IS-Bastion in dem Bürgerkriegsland vor und haben die Dschihadisten in dem Ort Baghus auf engstem Raum eingekreist. Der Sprecher sagte, seine Truppe habe rund 1300 ausländische IS-Kämpfer gefangen genommen, Iraker ausgenommen.

US-Präsident Donald Trump hatte die europäische Länder aufgefordert, in Syrien gefangene IS-Kämpfer zurückzunehmen und vor Gericht zu stellen. Die EU-Staaten sehen jedoch massive praktische Probleme.

„Eine pauschale kollektive Rücknahme von IS-Kämpfern kommt für uns keinesfalls in Betracht“, sagte Innenstaatssekretär Stephan Mayer (CSU) der „Passauer Neuen Presse“. Zudem komme es entscheidend darauf an, die Identität und die deutsche Staatsangehörigkeit schon im Aufenthaltsland zweifelsfrei und lückenlos zu klären.

Zustimmung für Trump aus Deutschland

Trump erhält aus Deutschland jedoch auch Zustimmung. „Wir müssen die im Ausland inhaftierten deutschen Dschihadisten zurücknehmen, daran führt kein Weg vorbei. Weder Deutschland noch Nordrhein-Westfalen wird sich dem verweigern können“, sagte NRW-Innenminister Herbert Reul (CDU) dem SPIEGEL. „Deswegen ist es klug, wenn wir uns jetzt darauf vorbereiten und sowohl Sicherheitsbehörden als auch Jugend- und Sozialbehörden sensibilisieren.“

Der Grünenaußenpolitiker Omid Nouripour nannte es in der „Passauer Neuen Presse“ grundsätzlich richtig, deutsche mutmaßliche IS-Unterstützer nach Deutschland zurückzubringen und hier für ihre möglichen Taten zur Verantwortung zu ziehen. „Das deutsche Strafrecht bietet genügend Möglichkeiten, diese gefährlichen Kämpfer hier auch entsprechend zu belangen.“ Die Strafverfolgungsbehörden, die sich mit Verbrechen in Syrien und Irak beschäftigen, müssten allerdings besser ausgestattet werden.

CDU-Innenexperte Armin Schuster sieht es als „humanitäre Verpflichtung“, Frauen und Kinder, „zuvorderst aufzunehmen und, wo nötig, psychologische Hilfestellung zu leisten“, sagte Schuster der „Saarbrücker Zeitung“. Dies gelte besonders, wenn diese nicht selbst gekämpft hätten. Er hatte bereits vorher gegenüber dem SPIEGEL eine Rückholung deutscher IS-Kämpfer gefordert.

Nach einem „Welt“-Bericht verzögert sich ein Gesetzentwurf, der die Ausbürgerung deutscher Mitglieder einer Terrormiliz ermöglichen soll. Das Bundesjustizministerium habe zum Entwurf des Innenministeriums bislang keine Stellung genommen, sodass er nicht an diesem Mittwoch vom Kabinett verabschiedet werden könne. Nach einem Bericht des „Handelsblatts“ gibt es im Innenministerium verfassungsrechtliche Bedenken dagegen, IS-Rückkehrern mit doppelter Staatsbürgerschaft den deutschen Pass zu entziehen. Es gelte das im Grundgesetz verankerte Rückwirkungsverbot

Der Spiegel

The Killing of Tahir Elçi

On 28 November 2015, Tahir Elçi, a prominent Kurdish human rights lawyer, was shot and killed during a press conference in the city of Diyarbakır, Turkey.

Elçi’s death came during a time of rising tensions in the country, against the backdrop of the decades-long conflict between Turkish security forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a militant political movement dedicated to achieving Kurdish autonomy in Turkey’s southeast.

By late 2015, a major peace process had recently collapsed into violence. Elçi had been a prominent voice for calm and de-escalation, but after his death, the situation in Diyarbakır deteriorated into humanitarian catastrophe, leaving hundreds of civilians dead and thousands displaced.

It was not only the manner of his death—seemingly echoing the assassinations of the conflict’s worse years—that caused outrage, and fulled rumours and conspiracy theories. The early days of the investigation into his death were chaotic, and in three years since the killing, no one has been charged.

In 2016, the Diyarbakır Bar Association, of which Elçi was chairman at the time of his death, asked Forensic Architecture to examine the evidence in their possession, and to independently investigate the circumstances of his death. As Elçi was killed during a press conference, multiple cameras captured the moments leading up to his death.

In December 2018, the results of our analysis were submitted to the public prosecutor in Diyarbakır, with the intention of challenging the Turkish state to reinvigorate its own investigation.

In February 2019, we published an extended report on our investigation through openDemocracy, exploring in depth some of the wider context behind Elçi’s death, and our investigation. You can read that here (English) and here (Türkçe).

You can also view our methodology here: English / Türkçe

Forensic Architecture


The Killing of Tahir Elçi – ENGLISH

The Killing of Tahir Elçi – EN from Forensic Architecture on Vimeo.

German ISIS terrorist Lucas Glass

‘I got cheated. All of us got cheated’: Captured German Isis member says he regrets joining terror group`
Lucas Glass, 23, is being held by the Syrian Democratic Forces ( Richard Hall/The Independent )

Lucas Glass had not long finished school when he decided to join Isis. In the summer of 2014, shortly after the terror group declared its global caliphate, he left his home city of Dortmund and set off with his wife to start a new life in Syria. He was just 19 years old.

“All I knew about Isis was that they were establishing Islamic law and fighting Bashar al-Assad,” he says, cutting a solemn figure under the watchful eye of his captors at a military installation in northern Syria.

Glass, a German citizen, now 23, is one of thousands of foreigners who came to this country in the throes of a brutal civil war to live under the strict interpretation of Islam that Isis promised its followers. That is not all they did, however. Many played a key role in the group’s reign of terror, acting as soldiers, executioners and recruiters.

Over the past few months, as the caliphate nears its end, hundreds of foreign nationals have been detained by the Syrian Democratic Forces as they leave the ever-shrinking territory of Isis. But their capture is just the start of a complex process which has no clear end in sight.

Most countries do not want to take back those citizens who left to join the caliphate, fearing they would be a security threat if they returned. Prosecuting them is extremely difficult due to a lack of evidence of what individuals did during their time living with Isis.

Foreigners leaving the caliphate know this, and the majority claim they had nothing to do with the group or were not fighters. They say they were cooks, doctors or humanitarians who simply found themselves in the caliphate by accident.

“They all say the same thing,” a Kurdish intelligence official responsible for handling suspected Isis members tells The Independent. “We don’t believe them.”

Glass is not one of those people. He admits to being a member of Isis, and to working for its police force for two years. But he claims he was duped by its propaganda, and did not discover the group’s true nature until it was too late.

Glass’ story gives an insight into the inner workings of one the most feared groups in the modern world, and the disillusionment of many of its followers as its fortunes started to decline.

In an exclusive interview with The Independent, he recounts the tale of how he came to join Isis, and how it all fell apart.

“You can compare it with a US soldier who wants to join the army,” he says of his motivation for joining the group, speaking in accented English. “Why is he ready to join the US army, and go to Afghanistan or Iraq or Syria to sacrifice his life for the sake of democracy? We heard that they announced an Islamic State, this is what we came for,” he says.

Glass converted to Islam in 2010, some 10 years after his mother had done the same. He had been familiar with the religion for most of this life, but it wasn’t until he got older that he discovered his faith. But he says he felt Germany did not afford him the space to live the religious life he wanted to.

In July 2014, Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi issued a call to Muslims around the world to come to Syria and Iraq to build an Islamic state. “Rush O Muslims to your state. Yes, it is your state. Rush, because Syria is not for the Syrians, and Iraq is not for the Iraqis,” he said in an audio message.

Those words hit home with Glass. He felt it was his duty to go. He married his German wife, and a month later they traveled to Turkey, where he paid a smuggler to take him across the border into Syria. Shortly after, he found himself enrolled at an Isis religious school.

“There were 400 of us in one camp. People from Germany, France, Belgium, Britain, north African countries,” he says.

Glass wanted to fight for the group, against the Syrian government, but an injury meant he was unfit for the frontline. Instead, he was assigned to the police force in Aleppo province.

“The main work was manning checkpoints in the streets. I would stop cars and look out for cigarettes and drugs,” he says. “I never pointed my gun at another human,” he insists.

He did this job for two years, he says. Life was as close to normal as it could be for a German living in an active warzone. But by 2016 Isis had gained enemies on all sides in Syria’s civil war, and began to lose ground in Aleppo to the Syrian opposition. Its fighters withdrew from Aleppo to Raqqa; Glass and his family, which now included children, went with them.

Throughout the time Glass was a member of the Isis police force, the group carried out some of its most heinous atrocities. In August 2014, Isis fighters overran the Iraqi town of Sinjar, where it massacred Yazidi civilians and kidnapped thousands of women to keep as sex slaves. Shortly after, Isis members killed the American journalist James Foley. Then in September they released videos showing the beheading of American-Israeli journalist Steven Sotloff, and then the execution of British aid worker David Haines. All of these were designed to maximise publicity, shared on Isis propaganda channels, and aimed at shocking the world and instilling fear in its enemies.

Glass continued to do his job, manning checkpoints for Isis while the group wrought havoc across the region. He insists he did not know these crimes were being committed, despite their widespread publication. It wasn’t until 2016, in Raqqa, that he says he had a change of heart.

“I had seen some stuff going on in Isis which I don’t accept, which I thought was un-Islamic,” he says.

“Some of the propaganda videos of Isis, burning people, drowning them. I got shocked when I saw these things. This is not allowed in Islam. These were things I don’t accept,” he says. “After that, I decided to leave.”

By the time Glass says he realised the truth about the group, Isis was carrying out deadly attacks far beyond its borders. In France, the US and Tunisia, Isis-inspired attacks killed hundreds. But Isis was also on the back foot in Iraq and Syria, losing ground in both countries. The US had entered the conflict and was bombing intensively across Isis’s self-declared caliphate.

“I just asked to leave,” says Glass. “They give you a paper and you get stamps from the people who are responsible for you. From this day I lived as a civilian,” but still within the caliphate.

“I didn’t want to be a part of Isis anymore. I wanted to be innocent of these things,” he adds.

Glass says he tried to escape once with his family but was caught by the Isis secret police.

“They imprisoned me for one and a half months. They released me under the condition that if I tried to leave a second time they would kill me,” he says.

From that moment on, as he tells it, he was a prisoner of Isis, and was forced to retreat as they retreated, from Raqqa to Deir ez-Zor. The Isis caliphate got smaller and smaller, its fighters faced defeat after defeat. Eventually, a string of villages along the Euphrates became the last holdout of the group.

The SDF, with US backing, launched its offensive on this last stronghold in December. The caliphate was surrounded, and battered by daily airstrikes, as Isis made its last stand.

“I remember a few times, me and my family and my children we went to the market, and there was bombing next to us, and I saw in front of my eyes women and children, gone, arms gone, head gone,” he says. “You didn’t know what would happen tomorrow. Every moment you expected to die.”

In the past months, an exodus of people have fled the Isis-held areas. The group’s usually tight control over who comes and goes has seemingly collapsed. Thousands of women and children were among those fleeing, many of them believed to be the relatives of Isis fighters.

Glass says there was a sense of abandonment among Isis supporters and fighters when the group’s leaders were suddenly nowhere to be found.

“Everybody was asking this question. Where are they? Why don’t they show themselves? They claim to be responsible for us, for the Muslims, why don’t they help us? The majority of people in Isis areas, even the majority of Isis fighters, hate them,” he says.

Glass was eventually captured as he crossed the front lines east of the town of Susah on 6 January. He was separated from his family and remains in detention to this day. His wife and children are currently being held with thousands of other families of suspected Isis members in a holding camp.

What comes next for him, and the thousands of other foreign prisoners held by the SDF, is unclear. The Syrian Democratic Forces is calling on foreign countries to take back their citizens who came here to join Isis. So far, France is the only European country to say it will bring them back. The US has also said it will try citizens suspected of Isis membership at home. The UK, meanwhile, has refused to allow its citizens to return. Defence secretary Gavin Williamson said last year: “I do not believe that any terrorist, whether they come from this country or any other, should ever be allowed back into this country.” Germany has so far taken the same position.

“I hope Germany is going to take me back, but I don’t expect they will,” he says. “I expect they will hand us over to the Syrian government.”

It is likely he will face prosecution for belonging to Isis no matter where he ends up, even if he was not directly involved in killing, as he claims. But there will be many who don’t believe his story.

“It is simply not plausible to suggest that there was any doubt over Isis’s true nature in 2014. Indeed, by the end of January in that year the group was drawing heavy criticism from even other rebel groups for its barbarity,” says Shiraz Maher, an expert on foreign fighters in the Syrian conflict, and director at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence at King’s College London.

“It is true that individuals within Isis sometimes performed specialised roles, serving as doctors, engineers and so on, but interviews I conducted suggest that they did this in addition to holding combat roles. A prominent Australian doctor, Tarek Kamaleh, was revealed to be doing just that in Isis propaganda, alternating between his work as a doctor and serving on the front line,” he adds.

It will not be long before Isis loses the last of its territory, bringing an end to the caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Already, many here are preparing for what comes next. Isis has already begun to transform back into an insurgency, and has demonstrated its ability to carry out attacks.

But according to Glass, who once held the group in high esteem, it will never again be able to muster the same support it did four years ago.

“At the beginning, when they announced their caliphate, thousands of Muslims came to Syria to support it. But now we know the reality of Isis. They will not find any supporters anymore in the Muslim world. All these things Isis did, and all these crimes, made Muslims all over the world hate Isis. So it will never be able to find any supporters anymore,” he says.

“I got cheated. All of us got cheated. All of these foreigners, thousands of Muslims who came to join Isis got cheated.”

“I came to practise my religion. I thought I would find what I wanted here, but actually it was very different.”

The Independent

American troops killed in Syria bomb attack claimed by Isil

American troops have been killed in a bomb attack in Syria claimed by Isil, just weeks after Donald Trump said the terror group had been defeated and announced he would pull out US forces.

The attack took place in the northern town of Manbij, where US troops were on patrol.

The exact number of Americans killed has yet to be confirmed but a spokesman for the US-led coalition against Isil said that multiple US soldiers had died.

“US service members were killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol in Syria today,” the spokesman said. “We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time.”

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 16 people were killed including nine civilians and others were wounded in the blast.

The attack throws into focus Mr Trump’s withdrawal from Syria, which he unexpectedly announced before Christmas and caught allies and figures in his own administration off guard.

The move triggered the resignation of two senior Trump administration figures – James Mattis, the defence secretary, and Brett McGurk, the special presidential anti-Isil envoy – and a backlash from Congress.

Mr Trump initially said the withdrawal of America’s 2,000 troops in Syria would take place in 30 days but that morphed into four months. Now the exact timetable of the withdrawal is unclear.

Justifying his decision in December, Mr Trump tweeted: “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.” He has also described Syria as a country of “sand and death”.

The deaths are the first US casualties in the country since Mr Trump’s announcement. Isil claimed responsibility for the attack, which appeared to be a suicide bombing.

The attack may be the most deadly on US forces in Syria since they were deployed on the ground in 2015.

A Pentagon spokesman told Reuters that only two US troops have previously been killed in action in Syria. There have also been two non-combat fatalities.

A video purporting to show the bombing broadcast by CNN showed the moment an explosion went off on a pavement of a busy street. The footage later showed pools of blood on the ground.

Reuters, the news agency, quoted two witnesses who described the blast.

„An explosion hit near a restaurant, targeting the Americans, and there were some forces from the Manbij Military Council with them,“ one said.

The Manbij Military Council militia has controlled the town since US-backed Kurdish-led forces took it from Isil in 2016. It is located near areas held by Russian-backed Syrian government forces and by anti-Assad fighters backed by Turkey.

One of the witnesses said there was a „heavy“ presence of military aircraft over Manbij following the blast, which took place near a vegetable market.

Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in a brief statement that Mr Trump had been briefed on the attack.

“The President has been fully briefed and we will continue to monitor the ongoing situation in Syria. For any specific questions please contact the Department of Defence,” she said.

She added in a later statement „Our deepest sympathies and love go out to the families of the brave American heroes who were killed today in Syria.

„We also pray for the soldiers who were wounded in the attack. Our service members and their families have all sacrificed so much for our country.“



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