ISIS 'Collaborators' Working With Coalition and Kurdish Intelligence Against Group

ISIS in Raqqa
A fighter waves an ISIS flag in Raqqa, Syria, in June 2014. A monitoring group says that ISIS leaders have banned football referees as they implement the "laws of FIFA" and "not Sharia." Reuters

The Islamic State militant group (ISIS) has collaborators among its ranks who are working with Kurdish and U.S.-led coalition intelligence services to reveal the group’s plans and the locations of its top leaders, according to a prominent monitoring group and a key adviser to the Iraqi government on the radical Islamists.

Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi expert who serves as a key adviser to the Baghdad government on ISIS and who was the first to report that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been injured in a U.S. air strike last year, says that coalition forces are cultivating a network of informants inside and outside the group in order to fulfil their aims, and that some sources have been coerced by loved ones.

“There is a group of collaborators working with the intelligence of the Kurds. The intelligence of the international coalition has had a big role in the killing of the most prominent leaders of Daash within the last two years,” he says in an email to Newsweek .

“These were recruited in various ways, including through interviews and others by relief societies,” he adds. “Some of them by means of their friends and their families but rarely have they been recruited for the sake of money.”

The U.S.-led coalition has picked off a series of ISIS figureheads in air strikes in both Iraq and Syria. An air strike killed senior militant Abu Hija al-Tunisi, a Tunisian jihadi whom ISIS leader Baghdadi had sent to direct the group’s ranks in northeastern Aleppo. He stopped in Raqqa, the capital of the group’s self-proclaimed caliphate, before being struck and killed by a missile near the city in April.

The death of the senior leader raised questions among the group’s leadership, who believed that his whereabouts had been leaked. The group responded by killing “more than 35” of its members suspected of potentially leaking the information, says Rami Abdelrahman, director of the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which uses a wide network of sources on the ground in Syria.

“ISIS has executed some fighters in Deir Ezzor, in Ar-Raqqah and north of Hama because they said they had given information to the coalition to attack areas, specifically to attack some leaders of ISIS in Syria,” he tells Newsweek .

He adds that ISIS suspects the collaborators of helping the coalition target its leaders through their mobile phones, possibly with the use of GPS tracking to pinpoint locations. This would allow the coalition to target the area where the mobile phone has been located.

While it has been reported that the fighters had possibly collaborated with the U.S.-led coalition for financial gain, Abdelrahman says that “it’s one of the reasons, maybe.”

He rejected reports that ISIS dropped its own fighters into a vat of acid in northern Iraq, saying that collaborators had only been executed by shooting, in comparison with the grisly deaths of civilians or western hostages viewed as “unbelievers.”

The group’s paranoia that every move of its leadership is being watched has transferred to their propaganda videos, with a series of purported executions of “spies” in numerous clips, including the use of child executioners in a bid to warn collaborators among the group’s ranks and any fighters considering the possibility of working against the group.

A spokesperson for the U.S.-led coalition was not immediately available for comment.