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The leader of the Islamic State (ISIS) is turning his attention to Maghreb youth. He has a secret agenda for their role in the self-proclaimed caliphate.
In the latest message to the region, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on January 20th called on “brothers everywhere, be they in Libya, Mali, or Algeria, to pledge allegiance to the state of the caliphate and to travel and become part of its society.” Only three days earlier, the Daesh leader addressed African youth, especially those in Tunisia and Morocco, to immigrate to the Islamic State in Libya.
But if these recruits knew what ISIS really planned to do with them, they would never leave home. Rights groups confirm that Daesh treats young African men as slaves, using them for suicide operations and killing those who dare to disobey or leave.
Those who make it out recount a series of disappointments. Those who don’t end up dead.
One of them was a youth identified on jihadist websites only as Abu Ibrahim al-Tounsi. He was sent by ISIS on one-way mission, with no way out other than death. He was killed Tuesday (January 28th) while attacking Tripoli’s Corinthia Hotel.
Young recruits are seen as disposable by the Islamic State, whether in the Libyan capital or the Syrian border town of Kobani, known as Ain al-Arab.
ISIS is ready to let them die, even when the deaths achieve nothing. For example, the Tunisian youth and the four others who attacked the Tripoli hotel ended up killing as many Libyans as foreigners. And the Islamic State kept sending young recruits into Kobani to die, even when it was clear that the citizens would soon reclaim their town.
So what leads prompts youths as young as 15 to leave home and die for these groups?
Desperation, says Said Charki, a teacher in Beni Mellal.
“It’s either a way out of poverty for the poor, who are attracted by terrorist propaganda claiming high salaries, spoils and financial gains, or else it’s for engagement in jihad, or a way out of monotony and boredom,” he says.
“ISIS, al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups focus on certain categories of youths whose social and psychological conditions make them more willing,” he adds. “They focus on marginalised neighbourhoods, poor families and sons of immigrants in European countries who face identity and integration problems.”
Shock sets in from the very first moment the youths start their journey. Nothing is like what they were promised by local recruiters, or what they saw online through social media sites.
“Under bombardment and bullets, there is no room for anything but discipline and obedience to strict orders from warlords,” Charki adds.
Chilling policy on newcomers
The journey to ISIS starts with disobedience of parents, although Islam speaks highly of filial duty. In many cases, young people find themselves forced to rob their own parents to afford their travel expenses.
An internal report prepared by the Islamic State Shura Council in Iraq talks about what happens to the money once the young recruit arrives.
“As soon as the brother reaches the border group, he is asked about the money and items he has in his possession,” the report leaked last September says. “They take much of that money and items under the pretext of holding them as deposits for him, that brothers will meet all his needs, and that there is no need to carry money. He is forced to hand over all that he has.”
“When the brother mujahid enters the land of jihad, a series of shocks starts,” the report continues. “The new brothers are moved from one resting house to another, from a tent to another in the desert, and are handed from one brother to another. They spend at least a week in this condition under the pretext that there is no one to take responsibility for their hand-over.”
Even for those who try to get out, it may prove impossible. Hundreds of cases have been documented in recent weeks showing that ISIS killed its own fighters, from different nationalities, just because they wanted to quit.
According to Abdelmajid Hachadi, a journalist who specialises in terrorism cases, a number of families in the Moroccan towns of Al-Hoceima and Beni Mellal received calls from their sons trying to get out of Syria and return home.
So it came as a surprise when they suddenly heard that the youths had been killed in suicide operations or in battle. “ISIS is behaving like any other criminal outlawed gang,” Hachadi tells Magharebia. “It can’t allow any of its elements to simply withdraw because they will carry the group’s secrets. ISIS prefers to liquidate its men rather than allow them to leave.”
ISIS devalues Maghreb youth
For the young people who enter Syria to fight with ISIS, Suqoor al-Ezz, Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, or Sham al-Islam, the journey to foreign jihad is the easy part.
As soon as they arrive, however, they discover that they’re just cannon fodder in a war that has nothing to do with them.
To the Islamic State warlords, Moroccans, Tunisians and Libyans have no use except as suicide bombers: “animals that carry explosives on their backs”, Mohannad al-Saudi told Ozak daily.
Al-Saudi managed to escape after he discovered the reality.
Young recruits are sent to camps, but receive no weapons or military training. They have a different task.
ISIS differentiates between two types of men: fighters, who are mostly Iraqis from local tribes, and suicide bombers, who are mostly Maghreb and European citizens.
The Shura Council report even talks about blowing up suicide bombers in empty spaces, with no purpose other than to get rid of them when they become a nuisance, or to show the central leadership how the brigade is keeping busy.
Nowhere to turn
“Most of the deceived youths in Syria want to return, and some have even started negotiations with the Moroccan authorities to arrange for their return home,” notes Moroccan researcher Mountacir Zian, director-general of the Mediterranean Company for Analysis and Strategic Intelligence (CMAIS).
“However, we in Morocco can’t simply allow them to return without first putting them on trial,” he says. “Many of them participated in murders, and have to be held accountable for their acts, even though they were committed outside Morocco.”
“We also don’t know whether their repentance is real or not,” the analyst tells Magharebia. “We just saw in France how two young men who received training at al-Qaeda camps returned to normal life in their country, only to carry out a massacre.”
Source : Magharebia