Mehdi Army fighters loyal to Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr take part during a parade in Baghdad's Sadr city June 21, 2014.REUTERS/Ahmed Saad
CAIRO – 17 December 2017: More than 40,000 people from more than 110 countries around the world traveled to Syria and Iraq after the ISIS caliphate was announced in 2014, according to a report by Soufan Group, which provides strategic security intelligence services to governments and multinational organizations.
Furthermore, the 41-page report pointed out that only about 5,600 people returned to their home nations.
"The issue is: how many have died? How many are still there and willing to fight? How many have gone elsewhere to fight? How many have given up? I don't think we have a good answer," said Seth Jones, director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at Rand Corporation.
"It is a hell of a dilemma," said Richard Barrett, senior adviser to The Sufan Center (TSC) who wrote the report, adding, "Identifying these people is very difficult."
The report also confirmed that about 400 citizens have returned recently from Syria and Iraq to Britain, according to British Minister of State for International Development Rory Stewart.
From France, about 1,700 people went to Iraq and Syria since 2013 to join ISIS. Of those, 400 to 450 have been killed and 250 returned to France, officials said.
The report also notes that a group of returnees are the most difficult for countries to deal with, namely the segment of women and children, especially as some children were born in the caliphate. Therefore, it is important to address this issue urgently and implement the development of mechanisms for mental safety and social support, as some have been trained to carry arms and kill.
Also, TCS said, “From 2014 to 2016, ISIS have recruited and trained more than 2,000 boys between the ages of 9 and 15 as cubs of the caliph¬ate.”
TCS points out that most ISIS members still fight and adhere to their leaders, and some of them will move to other lands to continue fighting and to join other violent groups.
A crushing defeat in Syria did not close the escape routes, as Islamic State fighters were able to integrate with civilian refugees or pay bribes to infiltrate into Turkey.
Many of them have little choice but to continue fighting. They never had a plan to return to their countries of origin, where they face imprisonment in most cases. For many of them, it was a one-way journey, as they wanted to live in the caliphate permanently.