SYRIA - The caliphate is shrinking and ISIS is practically military defeated. But then what? Is ISIS a thing of the past? What remains of the terrorist group and what is there to expect? 

In search for answers to those questions, journalist Mahmoud Elsobky travels to what the caliphate once was. Along countries that turned out to be major suppliers for ISIS fighters and along regions where ISIS apparently hopes to take root again. Elsobky goes in search of insiders who can tell him how ISIS sees itself now, he talks with generals and sources from intelligence services.

"Is ISIS over”? is in addition to a search for the remains of ISIS after the disintegration of the caliphate also a search for confirmation of rumors that have been around for some time. Rumors about Ernie.

When Raqqa, a last ISIS stronghold in Syria, was about to collapse, a column left. A column of trucks loaded with what you could call the elite of ISIS. This hard core needed to keep ISIS alive now that they had to give up the caliphate. We do not know where exactly that column has ended up. But it illustrates the plan that the terror organization had for the future.

Emni had been part of ISIS for some time and acted as a secret law enforcement agency there. Think of the Stasi in former East Germany. In fact, the organizational aspect of ISIS has been reduced to emni. An underground movement that ensures that the threat of terror is maintained and that local cells facilitate the setting up of an attack. Cells that are in contact with each other, but do not know each other. Emni clearly had blueprints for attacks, but not everyone was able to follow them without problems.

"Abaoud and Abdeslam made a mistake by not blowing themselves up in the end." - Jassim Mohamed, ex-Iraqi intelligence service / ECCI director.

The lone-wolves attacks that we have mostly seen in recent years are the work of individual people. Behind the scenes they can count on the support and inspiration of emni.

In this context, several interviewees in the report make a call that is politically difficult, but perhaps makes sense for security reasons. Foreign ISIS fighters can best be taken home again, because they are important sources of information.

'I realize very well that it is very difficult politically, but from a security point of view it would be better to get them here and secure them here.' - Koert Debeuf, director Tahrir Middle East institute.

Team members

Mahmoud Elsobky

Mahmoud Elsobky is an investigative reporter and documentary filmmaker Investigative Reporter @alhurranews based in Washington.

Mahmoud Elsobky
€ 20.000 allocated on 21/12/2017.


  • Belgian public broadcaster VRT/Canvas, 22/11/2018. (in Dutch)


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