Islamic State prisoner tells of escape from death row

When the Islamic State carried out its take-over of northern Iraq in June 2014, Iraq’s army proved unable to stop them. Many captured soldiers were summarily executed. Picture: Welayat Salahuddin via AFP

Scores of disillusioned foreign jihadists have been imprisoned by Islamic State militants to prevent them fleeing the network’s self-declared caliphate, which is rived with infighting and bitter national rivalries.

Speaking to The Times, a former captive who escaped imminent execution in a notorious IS jail, revealed that many European jihadists who ripped up their passports on declaring their allegiance to what they believed would be an idealistic Islamic State soon became demoralised by increasing divisions among the group and wanted to leave. He explained that Saudis and Iraqis were the kingpins in the group.

“The Tunisians think of themselves as the fighters, and the Saudis as the religious men, the clerics,” said Omar, a Syrian civil activist who spent six months on death row inside the terror group’s huge prison compound in Al Bab, in the northern province of Aleppo, Syria, before his escape three months ago.

“Each nationality tends to stick together. The British are usually the professionals — the doctors and the engineers.”

Omar, who declined to give his real name for fear of reprisals, was held along with a number of foreign fighters — including one 20-year-old French jihadist — who had been caught trying to leave the group. His comments provide a unique insight into the workings and structure of the terror organisation, its strict hierarchy and conditions within its jails…