The alleged identities of some 22,000 DAESH extremists have been revealed in a cache of documents, according to media reports yesterday, although analysts have cast doubt on their authenticity. The information, which some experts said would deal a blow to DAESH, was reportedly included in forms featuring 23 questions that new recruits had to fill out in order to be accepted into the group.
The documents contain details like names, dates of birth and phone numbers for people from 51 countries including from Britain, Northern Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, the United States and Canada. If the documents are proved to be genuine, experts said they could help intelligence services around the world track down people who have travelled to countries such as Syria and Iraq to join DAESH.
"What's important now is that the authorities can look at how this information can be used in the fight against DAESH and if it can then we would welcome that," British Prime Minister David Cameron's spokeswoman told reporters at a daily briefing. She said the government was not aware of the story before the reports came out.
The size of the cache was revealed by Britain's Sky News television following German media reports earlier this week about a questionnaire that new DAESH recruits from Germany had to fill in. The documents on German suspects are believed by authorities to be authentic and German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said they would help them develop "a better understanding of the structures" of DAESH. He said it would also pave the way for "faster, clearer investigations and higher prison sentences." Richard Barrett, formerly a senior figure in Britain's MI6 overseas intelligence service, said the leak would be "an absolute gold mine of information of enormous significance and interest." But leading experts pointed out mistakes and uncharacteristic language in the forms. "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," Charlie Winter, a researcher at Georgia State University, told AFP.
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. Contacted by AFP, a spokesman for Britain's Home Office said the ministry would not comment on national security issues.
Names on the list include Reyaad Khan, a 21-year-old British extremist who Britain's government said was planning attacks on Britain before being killed by a British drone in Syria last year. Another on the list was Junaid Hussain, a British computer hacker described by British authorities as a key DAESH operative, who died in a U.S. airstrike last year.
The alleged leak comes with Western security services on high alert against the possibility of fresh extremist massacres following the Paris attacks last November. On Monday, Britain's most senior counter-terrorism police officer warned of the risk of "spectacular" attacks targeting the "Western lifestyle." British police have previously said they foiled seven plots between late 2014 and early 2016.
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