Daesh recruit says many foreign fighters jailed or killed

Abdul Ahad Rustam Nazarov, 28, a Tajik man who joined Daesh, talks during an interview with Reuters, in the town of Rmeilan, Hasaka province, Syria. (Reuters)
Updated 11 April 2019
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Daesh recruit says many foreign fighters jailed or killed

  • “I was jailed three times for trying to leave,” he said
  • He said most foreign men who traveled to Syria were immediately taken to Mosul in Iraq for military training

RMEILAN, Syria: A Tajik man who joined Daesh said many foreigners who enlisted in its self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria were jailed or killed for trying to leave.
The 28-year-old, who once drove a taxi in Moscow, said he handed himself over to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed group, from Daesh’s last holdout of Baghouz in eastern Syria last month after years of trying to escape.
SDF officials monitored and recorded a Reuters interview with the man, Abdul Ahad Rustam Nazarov, at an SDF center in Rmeilan in Syria. Reuters could not verify his account.
Tajikistan has offered amnesty to those who quit Daesh and return home, provided they’ve committed no other crimes.
Nazarov says he never fought for Daesh. Parts of his account about his life were inconsistent, although other parts matched what others have said about Daesh, including its strict judicial system and its eventual defeat.
“I was jailed three times for trying to leave,” Nazarov said. “I wanted to come and see Islamic State for myself ... and to help those being oppressed by the Syrian government.
“But I didn’t want to make a pledge of allegiance to the caliphate.”
Nazarov said most foreign men who traveled to Syria were immediately taken to Mosul in Iraq for military training.
Some refused and were punished, he said, describing a special Daesh judicial section that dealt with those trying to flee or refusing to pledge allegiance.
“Some friends were executed ... because they were not ready to commit to IS,” he said.
Escape attempts
Nazarov said he tried more than once to escape to Turkey across the Syrian border. He said he made contact with authorities in Tajikistan to arrange for his own surrender. Tajik interior ministry and state security officials, speaking anonymously because they were not authorized to comment, said neither body had received requests from Nazarov.
Thousands of men from Central Asian are estimated to have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join Islamic State since 2014, when it declared its caliphate.
The Sunni militant group was driven from all territory it controlled in Iraq in 2017 and from its final redoubt of Baghouz in eastern Syria last month.
Some foreigners including Central Asians surrendered but most were killed, Nazarov said.
“There were experienced snipers in IS ranks who were from Chechnya. Most of them died in battle, especially in Mosul, Baiji and Raqqa,” he said.
Nazarov said Daesh militants tried to stop men surrendering to the SDF in Baghouz, locking them in cars and firing at them when they eventually fled.
The US-backed campaign to drive Daesh out of Iraq and Syria involved tough battles with hardened militants, especially in Mosul and Raqqa.
Nazarov said he once met Gulmurod Khalimov, a Tajik military commander who joined Daesh, in an Internet cafe in Mosul frequented by militants. He belives Khalimov was killed fighting.
Nazarov said he wanted to be reunited with his pregnant wife, a Chechen now in Al-Hol camp in Syria, where 60,000 people who fled Baghouz live. “My other two children starved in Baghouz,” he said.


Macron meets Syrian Kurds, vows French support in fight against Daesh

Updated 42 min 39 sec ago
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Macron meets Syrian Kurds, vows French support in fight against Daesh

  • Macron assured the SDF representatives, who were not named, of the "active support of France in the fight against Daesh which continues to be a menace for collective security"
  • European capitals are all keeping a careful eye on the Daesh prisoners held by the SDF after the defeat of the extremists, given many are dual nationals

PARIS: President Emmanuel Macron on Friday hosted representatives of the Kurdish-led force that defeated Daesh extremists in Syria, assuring them of France's support in the fight against remaining extremists.
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had in late March flushed out Daesh from their last bastion in Syria but still warn the terrorists remain a threat in places.
The SDF is an umbrella force of Kurds and Arabs dominated by Kurds from the People's Protection Units (YPG) militia. It is regarded with huge distrust by neighbouring Turkey which sees the YPG as a terror group.
Macron assured the SDF representatives, who were not named, of the "active support of France in the fight against Daesh which continues to be a menace for collective security," the presidency said in a statement.
Particularly important was the support in the "handling of terrorist fighters held as prisoners along with their families."
European capitals are all keeping a careful eye on the Daesh prisoners held by the SDF after the defeat of the extremists, given many are dual nationals.
Macron also vowed that financial support would be allocated to "respond to the humanitarian needs and the socio-economic stabilisation of civilian populations in Syria."
The SDF were the key ally of the West in defeating Daesh and waged the bulk of the fighting on the ground.
But they fear being abandoned by their patrons now Daesh is beaten, after US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of American forces from Syria.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had in April announced one million euros ($1.1 million) in humanitarian aid for camps housing displaced people, notably Al-Hol which holds thousands of women and children who lived in Daesh-held areas.
France's past contacts with the SDF's Syrian Kurds have angered Turkey, which regards the YPG as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
The PKK has waged a 35-year insurrection against the Turkish state.
Macron also made clear of the importance to Paris of "the security of Turkey and a de-escalation along the Syrian-Turkish border," the presidency said.