Home >Politics >Policy >58 nationals from 17 countries deserted Islamic State, says RAW
A file photo of a member loyal to the Islamic State waving an IS flag in Raqqa on 29 June 2014. Photo: Reuters
A file photo of a member loyal to the Islamic State waving an IS flag in Raqqa on 29 June 2014. Photo: Reuters

58 nationals from 17 countries deserted Islamic State, says RAW

Syria saw the highest number of desertions at 21, followed by Saudi Arabia with nine, says data compiled by Research and Analysis Wing

New Delhi: As many as 58 nationals from 17 countries who joined terror outfit Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) deserted the organization between January 2014 and August 2015.

Comprehensive data compiled by external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), with assistance from foreign counterparts, shows that France, which recently witnessed multiple terror strikes by ISIS, is among the countries whose nationals have left the outfit’s ranks.

According to the data, reviewed by Mint, some other countries that figure in the list of ISIS deserters are the United Kingdom, Australia and Germany, with two each; and France, Belgium and Switzerland, with one each.

Syria saw the highest number of desertions at 21, followed by Saudi Arabia with nine. Iraq, Jordan, Indonesia, Libya, Tajikistan, Tunisia and Turkey are the other countries whose nationals deserted ISIS fold.

The list also includes two Indian nationals, including a 17-year-old girl who is an expat from Qatar. The other Indian is Areeb Majeed, a resident of Kalyan near Mumbai who was brought back from Syria via Turkey by Indian security agencies.

“If one analyses the data, the trend shows that the number of operatives leaving ISIS started increasing from September last year. Our intelligence reports suggest this is because a number of foreign nationals were completely disillusioned with the ideology of the terror outfit. Then there is considerable discrimination in the ISIS hierarchy. Besides, the outfit has started suffering huge casualties since last year, which will increase now that the international community is coming together to launch a joint offensive against ISIS," a senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity.

“But one must admit that it is difficult to escape from the control of ISIS operatives as they keep those from the Asian sub-continent, Africa and Europe under constant watch," the official added.

A recent intelligence report had also suggested that ISIS considers Indians and people from the sub-continent to be inferior fighters as compared to Arabs, leading to them being used as suicide bombers or foot soldiers on the front lines in Syria and Iraq.

The government has already directed key intelligence and security agencies to closely track all ISIS-related activities, particularly those related to radicalisation and recruitment of Indian youth.

Another government official handling sensitive security issues, on condition of anonymity, said that information available with Indian agencies suggests that despite the desertions, ISIS still has a cadre strength of more than 10,000 operatives in Iraq and Syria.

“In addition, they are trying to coordinate with other terror networks in India and the sub-continent to expand their footprint. This is a dangerous trend as our intelligence inputs suggest that of the 50-odd Pakistani nationals fighting in Syria and Iraq none has left," the second official added.

Former R&AW chief A.K. Verma is of the opinion that instances of desertions from ISIS will see a spurt in the days ahead specially with the increase in intensity of air strikes by foreign forces.

“After the Paris attack and blowing up of the Russian aircraft there is little doubt that the international community will come together against ISIS. Once the casualty rate of this terror outfit starts increasing you will see a lot of operatives leaving. Further though IS is using the social media very effectively to radicalise and recruit youth the same tool being used by security agencies across the world to spread information and awareness about what IS actually is all about," Verma remarked.

Detailed information collected from various agencies within the country, including state police and regional intelligence units of the Intelligence Bureau, over the last two months has once again confirmed that ISIS has not been able to make any significant inroads in India.

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