Female fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces have played a part in the rout and flight of Islamic State fighters in Raqqa.
Female fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces have played a part in the rout and flight of Islamic State fighters in Raqqa. YOUSSEF RABIH YOUSSEF

Thousands of 'invisible' IS fighters have made it home

THOUSANDS of Islamic State fighters have already returned to their home countries amid confusion over the number of foreign jihadis remaining in the dwindling "caliphate”.

Research by The Soufan Centre estimates that at least 425 British IS members have so far returned to the UK - the largest cohort in Europe.

But there are fears many have "disappeared” from the view of security services, who will not publicly confirm how many returnees have been jailed or are being tracked.

Out of countries for which data was available, only Turkey (900), Tunisia (800) and Saudi Arabia (760) had larger numbers of returning foreign fighters, the study said.

Of the 850 people known to have travelled to war zones in Syria and Iraq from the UK, about 100 are women and 50 are children.

Richard Barrett, the author of the report, said: "As the so-called Islamic State loses territorial control of its caliphate, there is little doubt that the group or something similar will survive the worldwide campaign against it so long as the conditions that promoted its growth remain.

"Its appeal will outlast its demise.”

Mr Barrett said former fighters' attitudes to IS varied dramatically between those who rejected the group, became disillusioned, or were forced to retreat in battle.

"While it will be hard to assess the specific threat posed by foreign fighters and returnees, they will present a challenge to many countries for years to come,” he said.

- INM



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