Experts question authenticity of leaked ISIS documents

The experts' biggest concerns were the different names, logo, and language inconsistencies in the leaked ISIS documents (left) that were described as "very much out of character". (Below) ISIS recruits in an image from an ISIS video posted online. Co
The experts' biggest concerns were the different names, logo, and language inconsistencies in the leaked ISIS documents (above)) that were described as "very much out of character". PHOTO: ZAMANALWSL.NET
The experts' biggest concerns were the different names, logo, and language inconsistencies in the leaked ISIS documents (left) that were described as "very much out of character". (Below) ISIS recruits in an image from an ISIS video posted online. Co
ISIS recruits in an image from an ISIS video posted online. Copies of the documents showed recruits would have to answer 23 questions.PHOTO: ZAMANALWSL.NET

BEIRUT • Some analysts have raised doubts over the authenticity of thousands of documents reportedly leaked from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, pointing out mistakes and uncharacteristic language.

The documents, which include names, addresses, phone numbers and family contacts of ISIS recruits, were passed to Sky News by a disillusioned former member, the British broadcaster said on Wednesday.

Syrian opposition news website Zaman al-Wasl said there were thousands of repetitions in the leaked documents and the names of only 1,700 people could be identified in the 22,000 documents.

DOCUMENTS FAKED FOR SALE?

Maybe some of the information is real, while the layout was fabricated to sell the information at a high price to different buyers.

JOURNALIST AND EXTREMISM EXPERT WASSIM NASR

The files include forms that ISIS recruits reportedly had to fill out in order to join and contain information on nationals from 51 countries.

There were several inconsistencies in the language of the forms that raised concerns, experts said.

The Arabic name for the "Islamic State in Iraq and Syria" is written in two different ways, including one not consistent with past practice. Files documenting the deaths of ISIS militants use the words "date of killing" instead of the typical term "martyrdom" used by them. Independent expert on religious extremism Romain Caillet also noted some documents feature a second, circular logo not previously used on ISIS files.

Researcher Charlie Winter at Georgia State University said: "There would be big alarm bells for me, because when I've seen inconsistencies like that in the past, they've been on really shoddily made forgeries."

The biggest concerns were the different names, logo and grammatical mistakes that he described as "very much out of character".

"With something as important as this, it's important to look at it with as suspicious, discerning and cynical an eye as possible," he said.

Journalist and extremism expert Wassim Nasr said the authenticity of at least some of the documents is questionable. "Maybe some of the information is real, while the layout was fabricated to sell the information at a high price to different buyers," he posted on Twitter.

Copies of the documents broadcast by Sky News showed that recruits would have to answer 23 questions including on their blood type, mother's maiden name and "level of syariah understanding" .

Some of the names in the documents are of fighters who have been already identified, such as Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, a former rapper from west London who once posted an image of himself on Twitter holding a severed head.

Researcher Dalia Ghanem-Yazbeck, from the Carnegie Middle East Centre in Beirut, said the documents "appear less sophisticated" than those leaked in the past. But she said some of the language mistakes and other red flags could be attributed to ISIS' nascent bureaucracy in 2013, when most of the forms were reportedly filled in."In that regard, what is interesting is the fact that even then, they had managed to recruit so many fighters - at least 1,736 registration forms," she said.

If real, the leak "is bad for the reputation of 'total allegiance' of ISIS members, and bad for the organisation" because it "shows its incapacity to protect such documents", she added.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2016, with the headline 'Experts question authenticity of leaked ISIS documents'. Print Edition | Subscribe