ISIS luring Jihadis with paid honeymoon

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Beirut: Given the heinous accounts of atrocities committed by the Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria, it becomes difficult to imagine that the ISIS monsters could have a life beyond beheadings and blood soaked battles. However, a rare peek into the personal life of an ISIS fighter, based on his interviews via Skype given to the Associated Press, it becomes clear how the Islamic State lures young recruits by providing perks like a free honeymoon package worth $1,500 and stipend for family.

In Raqqa, a city which is stained with the blood of thousands of innocent soul, an Islamic State fighter narrates how he enjoys a free honeymoon and all the perks that come along with it – a walk by the Euphrates river, delicious food in restaurants, ice-cream treat with his new bride – all thanks to $1500 marriage bonus paid by the ISIS. It is the story of an ISIS fighter Abu Bilal al-Homsi, who was an IT professional before he joined the Islamic State.

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“It has everything one would want for a wedding,” al-Homsi said of Raqqa — a riverside provincial capital that in the 18 months since IS took control has seen militants beheading opponents and stoning alleged adulteresses in public. “It is not just fighting,” said al-Homsi, who uses a nom de guerre. “There are institutions.There are civilians (that IS) is in charge of, and wide territories . It must help the immigrants marry. These are the components of a state and it must look after its subjects.” Al-Homsi spoke in a series of interviews with The Associated Press.

According to his interviews given to the AP over three years, he says that he met his Tunisian bride online after she liked his rhetoric views on Islam. The two chatted online for months before the ISIS fighter travelled to Syrian city of Deir al-Zour to ask her brother (already an ISIS fighter) for her hand in marriage.

The 24-year-old bride-to-be traveled through Algeria to Turkey, and from there to Raqqa with a group of other women joining IS. They were housed in a guesthouse for women, where the IS women police force also resides. Al-Homsi made the hazardous 150-mile (250-kilometer) journey from Homs to Raqqa to join her, after getting a recommendation from his local commanders. During the few days of their honeymoon, al-Homsi and his bride enjoyed Raqqa’s relative tranquility, riverside promenades and restaurants.

Then the couple travelled back to the Homs area, where IS fighters are holding ground against Assad’s forces and rival rebel groups. There, al-Homsi used the money from his grant to prepare a home for his new bride, and four kittens. The couple is now expecting a new baby and hoping for another cash injection, as the group can pay up to $400 as a bonus for each child.

For now the group provides a stipend of $50 a month for him and a similar amount for his wife. He also has an allowance for his uniform and clothes, some household cleaning supplies, and a monthly food basket worth $65. Soon after speaking to the AP, al-Homsi was back on the battlefield, among the fighters who took over the ancient city of Palmyra earlier this month.

The Islamic State, which is notorious for committing formidable atrocities, however pretends to think that it is up to an ambitious project: building a new nation ruled by what radicals see as “God’s law,” made up of Muslims from around the world whose old nationalities have been erased and who have been united in the “caliphate.”

To do that, the group has set up a generous welfare system to help settle and create lives for the thousands of jihadis — men and women — who have flocked to IS territory from the Arab world, Europe, Central Asia and the United States.

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