An Iraqi general found nearly 20 blank Iraqi passports in an abandoned Islamic State safe house in Mosul, which he believes fighters are forging in order to flee the ongoing assault by the Iraqi Security Forces.
The safe house also included 16 Russian passports, along with four French ones. Both Russia and France have thousands of citizens fighting for ISIS that raise security concerns for all of Europe and the U.S. Seized documents by the Iraqi Security Forces reviewed by The Washington Post also indicate foreign fighters faking illness, and expressing a desire to return home.
One ISIS commander wrote of a French fighter, “He doesn’t want to fight, wants to return to France.” He continued, “Claims his will is a martyrdom operation in France. Claims sick but doesn’t have a medical report.” ISIS refers to suicide missions as martyrdom operations.
Another file reviewed by WaPo says a French fighter assisted “in the departure of Abu Azzam al-Fransi and his wife from the land of the Caliphate.” The nom-de-guerre al-Fransi indicates the fighter is French.
Returning ISIS foreign fighters are a major security concern for Europe and the U.S. citizens of countries like France, that do not require a visa to enter the U.S. under the visa waiver program. President Donald Trump also instituted a travel suspension from seven terror-rife countries to the U.S., like Iraq, for a period of 90 days. The travel suspension is in flux after a federal court’s decision to stay the order, and may work its way up the Supreme Court.
Then-FBI Director James Comey feared in June that defeating ISIS would make it even more dangerous because, “through the fingers of that crush are going to come hundreds of really dangerous people.” Comey called the phenomenon a “terrorist diaspora” and drew a parallel to the spread of al-Qaida fighters after the Afghan jihad in the late 1980s and 1990s, saying the defeated ISIS fighters will be “10 times that or more.”
Veteran fighters of Osama bin Laden’s Afghan jihad went on to carry out attacks such as 9/11, the embassy bombings in Africa, and the 2000 bombing of a U.S. destroyer in the Gulf of Aden. Comey said the attacks in Paris and Brussels were a preview of a “challenge that is going to come.” The Paris attacks were carried out by Syrian battlefield veterans, and received direction and funding from ISIS’s core territory.
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