British Islamic State militant seeks to return home to face justice, expresses disillusionment with terror network

London: A British Islamic State militant wants to return home to face justice after becoming disillusioned with the terrorist network, according to messages he has exchanged with a UK newspaper.

Shabazz Suleman, a former schoolboy from Buckinghamshire in south-east England who vanished on a family holiday to Turkey three years ago, has told The Times that he is desperate to return as he escaped Islamic State-controlled territory in northern Syria.

"Everyone's leaving. I got out a week and a half ago. I spent a couple of months in Deir Ezzor. I was Awol (absent without leave; in hiding). I got into a car and I drove with one of the fighters because they were retreating.

British Islamic State militant seeks to return home to face justice, expresses disillusionment with terror network

Islamic State logo. Representational image. Reuters

"It was everyone, not just the Islamic State, it was huge — a mass exodus. There was heavy bombing," he told the newspaper from the city of Jarabulus on the Syrian border with Turkey, where he was captured by Liwa al-Shimal, a Turkish-backed militia.

"The Islamic State in Deir Ezzor has collapsed, everyone's just running away. The YPG [a western-backed Kurdish militia] didn’t stop us. They were going back to the front line," added Suleman, who turned 21 two weeks ago.

He now fears for his life because agents from the terrorist group are hunting deserters. "They kill you if you try to escape. One of the smugglers told me he was not meant to be helping me because they would kill him," he said.

The Times reports that Suleman has been in contact with the newspaper through online encrypted messaging services on the agreement that his story would not be published until he was beyond the borders of Islamic State territory or dead.

He claims to have been radicalised online and became a vocal supporter of the terrorist network but soon found himself becoming a "disillusioned jihadi".

In November 2014, the newspaper had revealed that he had joined Islamic State as part of a mass prisoner swap between the group and Turkey, in order to secure the release of 46 diplomats being held in Mosul, northern Iraq.

Suleman made his first contact with the newspaper under the assumed name Abu Shamil al-Britani and began by justifying his decision to leave Britain to join the group, saying he had "disliked the government for its foreign policy long ago". But in a string of messages in May this year, he claimed he was prepared to serve a prison sentence in order to return home to the UK and criticised the murder of 23 concert-goers in the Manchester Arena bombing claimed by ISIS.

Now, his father has said that the family would assist the authorities in any way they could to have his son back home.

"I would never have taken him to Turkey if I had known what he was thinking. I know for a fact that he has become a civilian and he hasn’t been in the battlefield for at least two years and never killed anyone or anything," Afzal Suleman said.

"At the end of the day if he has committed a crime he should go to court. We just want him home," the 46-year-old added.

Suleman is among hundreds of British nationals who travelled to the Middle East to join the ranks of Islamic State and other terror networks in Syria and Iraq.

Around 130 have been killed in the fighting and at least 400 others are believed to have returned to the UK.

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Updated Date: Oct 27, 2017 18:00:26 IST

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