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«In the past, Abu Ahmad said, he had hoped the Islamic State would become “jihadi unifiers,” capable of bringing Sunni jihadis together under one banner. He admired the foreign fighters whom he knew, mainly young men from Belgium and the Netherlands who had traveled to Syria to fight jihad. They had all lived in rich and peaceful countries, and while tens of thousands of Syrians had paid large sums of money to be smuggled to Europe to escape the war, these jihadis voluntarily traveled in the exact opposite direction»

«Secondly, while some of the foreign fighters were men who led truly religious lives in Europe, he discovered another group that he took to thinking of as the “crazies.” These were mostly young Belgian and Dutch criminals of Moroccan descent, unemployed and from broken homes, who lived marginal lives in marginal suburbs of marginal cities. Most of these crazies had no idea about religion, and hardly any of them ever read the Quran. To them, fighting in Syria was either an adventure or a way to repent for their “sinful lives” in Europe’s bars and discos»

«Baghdadi had another persuasive argument: A state would offer a home to Muslims from all over the world. Because al Qaeda had always lurked in the shadows, it was difficult for ordinary Muslims to sign up. But an Islamic state, Baghdadi argued, could attract thousands, even millions, of like-minded jihadis. It would be a magnet. “Baghdadi and other jihadi leaders,” said Abu Ahmad, “would compare this to Prophet Muhammad’s migration, or hijrah, from Mecca to Medina to escape persecution.”

The assembled jihadi leaders extensively discussed how a state would function, how it would deal with its population, what its aim would be, and its stance toward religious minorities.

After days of talking, every participant — including initial skeptics Atheer, Shishani, and the two Nusra Front intelligence officials — agreed with Baghdadi’s plan. The only condition they wanted from him was this: The newly created state must be declared in full cooperation with Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, another jihadi rebel group. Baghdadi agreed to these terms.

The next step was, on the spot, to pledge allegiance»

«Later that day, the Europeans — who until recently mostly had been small-time criminals in Amsterdam, Brussels, or Paris — enthusiastically told everybody how they pledged bayah to Baghdadi»

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