Report: Islamists Around the World Rushing to Join ISIS

Sunday, 10 Aug 2014 06:33 PM

By Greg Richter

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Members of al-Qaida in Yemen and Africa are leaving in large numbers to join the rival terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, The Washington Post reports.

The success of ISIS, or the Islamic State, as the group is also known, in taking over several cities in northern Iraq and eastern Syria may be behind the surge in recruitment, U.S. officials told the Post.

The United States has been making airdrops of supplies to Christian and Yazidi groups forced to flee to mountains in Iraq in fear of their lives and is prepared to strike ISIS members who threaten American interests.

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On Sunday, Iraq's human rights minister told Reuters that militants had killed at least 500 members of Iraq's Yazidi ethnic minority during their offensive in the north. Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said the Sunni militants had also buried alive some of their victims, including women and children. Some 300 women were kidnapped as slaves, he added.

"We have striking evidence obtained from Yazidis fleeing Sinjar and some who escaped death, and also crime scene images that show indisputably that the gangs of the Islamic States have executed at least 500 Yazidis after seizing Sinjar," Sudani told Reuters.

Sinjar is the ancient home of the Yazidis, one of the towns captured by the Sunni militants who view the community as "devil worshipers".

"Some of the victims, including women and children were buried alive in scattered mass graves in and around Sinjar," Sudani said.

ISIS has said it desires a direct conflict with the United States on American soil, and the current conflict may also be serving as a lure for new members.

"Small groups from a number of al-Qaida affiliates have defected to ISIS," a U.S. official told the Post. "And this problem will probably become more acute as ISIS continues to rack up victories."

It is not known whether airstrikes will deter recruitment or increase it, though the jihadist forum Shumukh al-Islam suggested the strikes should rally more to the cause.

So far, the defections appear to be of single members or small groups, counterterrorism analysts say, and no complete al-Qaida nodes or senior leaders have defected to ISIS, the Post reports.

Most defections have come from al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula [AQAP] in Yemen and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. AQAP is behind many of the terror plots aimed at the United States, including the failed underwear bomber on Christmas Day 2009.

Some jidhadis in the United Kingdom are using the travel website TripAdvisor to find ways to get to ISIS, the Sunday Express reports. Users are pretending to be tourists interested in trips to Turkey, but reveal their true intent to reach ISIS forces in Iraq or Syria by using the site to get answers to questions about ways of crossing the borders, the availability of transportation, and the cost of travel, the Express said.

ISIS has stated it intends to form a caliphate, or Muslim religious state, and is known for its brutality, including beheadings, of non-Muslims and even non-Sunnis. It formerly was an al-Qaida affiliate, but broke from the group after al-Qaida criticized it for its tactics.

Members of the Iraqi army laid down their arms and fled earlier this year as ISIS forces advanced. As a result, ISIS now possesses American weapons left for the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki. It also has raided banks and taken over oil wells, adding to its power.

They also have the advantage of being battle-tested.

"They are demonstrating just how advantageous it is to a terrorist insurgent group to be fighting in the field for years and years as they have been in Iraq and Syria," Daniel Benjamin, a professor at Dartmouth University and a former State Department counterterrorism official, told the Post.

"They are not constrained by that fear of failure other al-Qaida groups have shown," Benjamin said.

Of ISIS's estimated 10,000 members, up to half are thought to be from outside Iraq and Syria. And about 100 Americans are thought to have tried or succeeded in traveling to ISIS territory. That trouble's U.S. officials because they fear those Americans could return to launch terror attacks on the homeland.

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