Hundreds of foreign Islamic State fighters have gathered on the Turkish border, desperately trying to break through security parameters and make their way home, The Guardian reports.
Turkish border guards remain vigilant but it is virtually impossible to stop many of the fighters getting through via smuggling networks. The intended exodus of the foreign fighters comes as the U.S. backed Syrian Democratic Forces enclose on ISIS’s capital of Raqqa, the Syrian regime batters them in Deir e-Zour, and the U.S- backed Iraqi Security Forces remove their last vestiges from Iraq.
Many of the ISIS fighters are reportedly Saudi, which has thousands of young men who fled to Syria to join the terrorist group. The mass fleeing, however, highlights the potential threat of fleeing ISIS fighters.
Returning foreign fighters to Europe are of deep concern to Western intelligence agencies, who fear some will not have renounced Jihad and will pursue terrorist operations at home. Worse, many of the fighters will have combat skills, weapons, or explosives experience which could be put to good use.
The Europe-based International Center for Counter-Terrorism noted in April 2016 that, while some foreign fighters returning to Europe may be disillusioned with the terrorist group, “others may return with the aim of carrying out terrorist attacks, with reports suggesting that IS may systematically export terror cells to Europe.”
Already, the U.S. Department of State believes nearly 30 percent of european foreign fighters for the ISIS have returned to the continent. The number of European fighters who traveled to fight for ISIS is unknown, but estimates range in the thousands. U.S.-based security intelligence advisory firm, The Soufan Group (TSG), estimated that approximately 5,000 Western European fighters traveled to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS in 2015 alone. TSG also noted that 4,700 fighters were estimated to come from the former Soviet republics.
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