Leaked files could offer rare insight into ISIS

German officials think documents on recruits are genuine but some analysts are sceptical

A screengrab from an ISIS video posted on social media.
A screengrab from an ISIS video posted on social media.

LONDON • Returning terrorists could be identified and prosecuted and others stopped from joining their ranks after the German authorities confirmed they had received names of 22,000 foreign recruits for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist network.

German officials indicated they believed the cache of leaked documents was genuine, though some analysts were sceptical about some of the details flagged by Sky News, which claimed to have received a similar trove.

A German Interior Ministry statement said the papers offered "a great chance" to identify Germans taking part in ISIS terrorist activities, the BBC reported yesterday.

"It allows us to understand the structure of this terror organisation and perhaps it will serve as a deterrent for young radicalised people."

The documents, in Arabic, were forms with 23 questions and contained the names of ISIS recruits and of their relatives, telephone numbers, birth dates, nationalities, home towns and even blood types. Other details included the recruits' areas of expertise and who had recommended them.


While about 70 per cent of the ISIS recruits are Arabs, most of those from Europe are French and German. Sixteen are Britons. It is not clear whether there are recruits from South- east Asia.

Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May, calling ISIS "a severe threat", said "it is important for us to work together to counter this threat".

Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs told The Straits Times that it "is aware of media reports on the list and is working closely with our international security partners".

Analysts have hailed the trove of information even as some raised doubts about the authenticity of the documents.

More importantly, some pointed out the files could provide security agencies with information about previously unknown militants.

Associate Professor Kumar Ramakrishna, head of policy studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, called the leaked documents an "intelligence coup".

"According to reports, there were names there that even intelligence agencies were not aware of."

He added the questionnaires would give intelligence agencies an insight into what ISIS considers important qualities in its recruits.

Asked about the veracity of the documents, Dr Ramakrishna said it was "important to cross-check the information with as many alternative sources as possible".

Foreign security and intelligence agencies are reported to be poring over the documents. Sky News said it obtained the documents from a disillusioned former ISIS member, who quit the group he called "a lie".

This is the latest setback for ISIS reported this week. A captured ISIS chemical weapons expert has told United States interrogators about the group's chemical weapons programme while a top ISIS military commander has been badly wounded in a US air strike.

• Additional reporting by Danson Cheong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2016, with the headline 'Leaked files could offer rare insight into ISIS'. Print Edition | Subscribe