A batch of WhatsApp messages and voice recordings passed to The National show that ISIS members are desperate to flee and escape coalition airstrikes.
As the caliphate has increasingly lost territory, many ISIS fighters have been looking for a way out. The messages, seized by coalition forces in a raid, show ISIS members talking to family in Germany and discussing smuggling routes to Europe.
In one message, a man talks about “feeling imprisoned” and also complains about been denied freedom in Kurdish areas. Another message describes desperation to escape the ISIS stronghold as it comes under aerial bombardment, and the sender describes “feeling terrified” as bombs hit the area.
Kyle Orton, a Syria analyst, told The National, “The clear evidence that many Western foreign fighters with ISIS tried to flee, rather than go down with the caliphate, suggests a distance between their stated beliefs and their actual beliefs, and this is plausible since the Western jihadists tended to be firewalled away from the core of ISIS.”