Syria crisis: British jihadists becoming disillusioned with fighting rival rebels and want to come home

One fighter claimed they would be willing to undergo deradicalisation and submit to surveillance if they were assured of avoiding jail terms on their return

British jihadists fighting in Syria are increasingly disillusioned and want to come home, it has been reported.

The jihadists have become frustrated that instead of fighting President Assad’s forces they are finding themselves in fire fights with rival rebel groups.

Dozens of them are reported to want to return to Britain but are afraid they will be locked up for years if they do so.

One jihadist claiming to represent 30 British fighters with a group linked to Islamic State said they would be willing to undergo deradicalisation and submit to surveillance if they were assured of avoiding jail terms on their return, according to The Times.

“We came to fight the regime and instead we are involved in gang warfare. It’s not what we came for but if we go back [to Britain] we will go to jail,” he is said to have told researchers at the International Centre for Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR) at King’s College London. “Right now we are being forced to fight - what option do we have?”

Peter Neumann, the director of ICSR, told the newspaper he believed up to a fifth of British jihadists could be looking for a way to disengage from the fighting in Syria: “The people we have been talking to... want to quit but feel trapped because all the government is talking about is locking them up for 30 years.”

He said the government should consider setting up a deradicalisation programme and suggested that disillusioned jihadists could become powerful spokesmen against Isis propaganda.

 More than 500 British citizens are believed to have travelled to Syria as jihadists and 20 have been killed there, at least six of them in fighting between rebel factions. About 260 have returned, with 40 awaiting trial.

Social media posts have revealed that some jihadists fighting in Syria are concerned that if they are killed in fighting other jihadist groups rather than the Assad regime they will forfeit any chance of martyrdom and paradise.

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