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Ankara’s IS militants return home

In one of the Islamic State’s main recruitment grounds in Turkey, about half of the recruits have returned home, but experts warn that the organization’s appeal is far from over.
A man and a boy walk a long a street after they attending Friday prayers at Hacibayram district of Ankara November 21, 2014.  Picture taken November 21, 2014. REUTERS/Umit Bektas (TURKEY - Tags: SOCIETY) - RTR4GIZA
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ANKARA, Turkey — In Ankara’s Hacibayram neighborhood, young men clad in long gray robes stand out among the locals in the streets. They are sympathizers and former fighters of the Islamic State (IS) who, a couple of years ago, had made Hacibayram one of its main recruitment grounds in Turkey. According to a security official speaking to Al-Monitor, the number of recruits joining IS from or via Turkey has declined over the past year, and militants believed to be defectors from the group — both Turks and foreigners — have been increasingly sneaking in from Syria.

In Hacibayram, 70 of the estimated 150 young men who had joined IS have returned home, along with seven of the 10 families that had moved to the “caliphate,” a local official in close contact with residents told Al-Monitor. Observers, however, warn that the decline in recruitment does not mean that IS has lost its popular appeal.

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