Here's our fact check of Westerners who have — and actually have not — joined Daesh

Published July 31st, 2015 - 12:57 GMT

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If there’s one thing the media attention span has no limit for, it’s the painstakingly detailed accounts of Western recruits to Daesh (ISIS). Since the extremist group swept into northern Iraq last summer, news organizations have been climbing over each other to find the latest chef/rapper/athlete turned militant in Syria.

This is especially true for a handful of figures whose lives were not so private even before they went to the battlefield. In this year, we’ve seen world famous athletes and small town punk rockers join the group, leaving behind video trails of their pre-radicalized selves for us to scratch our heads over. Continue reading below »

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True - Valdet Gashi: The 28-year-old two-time Thai Boxing World Champion left a wife and two children in Bavaria for Daesh. Earlier this month, his family said he had died in Syria, and though the circumstances were unclear, some reports said he’d been killed for trying to defect from the militant group.
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Image 1 of 8:  1 / 8True - Valdet Gashi: The 28-year-old two-time Thai Boxing World Champion left a wife and two children in Bavaria for Daesh. Earlier this month, his family said he had died in Syria, and though the circumstances were unclear, some reports said he’d been killed for trying to defect from the militant group.

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True- Sally Jones: It’s been over six months since the 45-year-old British rockstar touted the “awesome life” with Daesh to an undercover Times reporter online. These conversations revealed a lot about the way the group lures Western women to Syria, and Jones’ own story was not far off; she left the UK after marrying a 20-year-old militant.
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Image 2 of 8:  2 / 8True- Sally Jones: It’s been over six months since the 45-year-old British rockstar touted the “awesome life” with Daesh to an undercover Times reporter online. These conversations revealed a lot about the way the group lures Western women to Syria, and Jones’ own story was not far off; she left the UK after marrying a 20-year-old militant.

Enlarge
True - Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary: The 25-year-old British rapper was one of the first Britons to join Daesh in Syria. London-raised and the son of a suspected Osama bin Laden affiliate, Bary can be seen in pre-Daesh days rapping about a difficult life in the UK. But this month, reports emerged he had defected and was trying to flee to Turkey.
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Image 3 of 8:  3 / 8True - Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary: The 25-year-old British rapper was one of the first Britons to join Daesh in Syria. London-raised and the son of a suspected Osama bin Laden affiliate, Bary can be seen in pre-Daesh days rapping about a difficult life in the UK. But this month, reports emerged he had defected and was trying to flee to Turkey.

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False - Zayn Malik of One Direction: When Malik split from the boy band, fans poured out with levels of devastation that kind of shocked the world. Amid this chaos, a theory emerged that he had joined Daesh. In reality, Malik was working with ex-Apprentice star Nurun Ahmed trying to deter East London teenage girls from being lured to Syria.
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Image 4 of 8:  4 / 8False - Zayn Malik of One Direction: When Malik split from the boy band, fans poured out with levels of devastation that kind of shocked the world. Amid this chaos, a theory emerged that he had joined Daesh. In reality, Malik was working with ex-Apprentice star Nurun Ahmed trying to deter East London teenage girls from being lured to Syria.

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Unconfirmed - Lassana Diarra: The 29-year-old Arsenal footballer appeared masked in 2014 swinging an AK-47 in some of Daesh propaganda videos. But days after initial reports, the footballer’s lawyer denied the claims, saying Diarra had “never set foot in the war-torn country.” At the time, he was playing football for Locomotiv Moscow.
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Image 5 of 8:  5 / 8Unconfirmed - Lassana Diarra: The 29-year-old Arsenal footballer appeared masked in 2014 swinging an AK-47 in some of Daesh propaganda videos. But days after initial reports, the footballer’s lawyer denied the claims, saying Diarra had “never set foot in the war-torn country.” At the time, he was playing football for Locomotiv Moscow.

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True - Sharky Jama: The 25-year old Australian model and DJ told his parents he was going camping last year before boarding a plane to Fallujah, Iraq to join Daesh. There, reports said he worked as a cook, medic and machine gun operator until last April, when his parents said they were alerted to his death via text message.
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Image 6 of 8:  6 / 8True - Sharky Jama: The 25-year old Australian model and DJ told his parents he was going camping last year before boarding a plane to Fallujah, Iraq to join Daesh. There, reports said he worked as a cook, medic and machine gun operator until last April, when his parents said they were alerted to his death via text message.

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True - Abu Saif: This Belgian-born chef set off for Syria two years ago to fight with al-Qaeda after being moved by the violent crackdown of President Bashar al-Assad. He told NBC that by 2014 he had been ready to leave the battlefield until Daesh’s lightning offensive in northern Iraq last summer convinced him to join their ranks instead.
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Image 7 of 8:  7 / 8True - Abu Saif: This Belgian-born chef set off for Syria two years ago to fight with al-Qaeda after being moved by the violent crackdown of President Bashar al-Assad. He told NBC that by 2014 he had been ready to leave the battlefield until Daesh’s lightning offensive in northern Iraq last summer convinced him to join their ranks instead.

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False - Macklemore: Ahh, when Twitter goes awry. In February, the rapper’s account had this troll tweet: “33 couples got married today during Same Love. Amazing to be apart of that moment. Just kidding b*tch. I’m in ISIS now.” Even apart from the misuse of ‘apart,’ it’s an obvious troll post. But hey, the Internet is a gullible beast.
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Image 8 of 8:  8 / 8False - Macklemore: Ahh, when Twitter goes awry. In February, the rapper’s account had this troll tweet: “33 couples got married today during Same Love. Amazing to be apart of that moment. Just kidding b*tch. I’m in ISIS now.” Even apart from the misuse of ‘apart,’ it’s an obvious troll post. But hey, the Internet is a gullible beast.

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1

True - Valdet Gashi: The 28-year-old two-time Thai Boxing World Champion left a wife and two children in Bavaria for Daesh. Earlier this month, his family said he had died in Syria, and though the circumstances were unclear, some reports said he’d been killed for trying to defect from the militant group.

Image 1 of 8True - Valdet Gashi: The 28-year-old two-time Thai Boxing World Champion left a wife and two children in Bavaria for Daesh. Earlier this month, his family said he had died in Syria, and though the circumstances were unclear, some reports said he’d been killed for trying to defect from the militant group.

2

True- Sally Jones: It’s been over six months since the 45-year-old British rockstar touted the “awesome life” with Daesh to an undercover Times reporter online. These conversations revealed a lot about the way the group lures Western women to Syria, and Jones’ own story was not far off; she left the UK after marrying a 20-year-old militant.

Image 2 of 8True- Sally Jones: It’s been over six months since the 45-year-old British rockstar touted the “awesome life” with Daesh to an undercover Times reporter online. These conversations revealed a lot about the way the group lures Western women to Syria, and Jones’ own story was not far off; she left the UK after marrying a 20-year-old militant.

3

True - Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary: The 25-year-old British rapper was one of the first Britons to join Daesh in Syria. London-raised and the son of a suspected Osama bin Laden affiliate, Bary can be seen in pre-Daesh days rapping about a difficult life in the UK. But this month, reports emerged he had defected and was trying to flee to Turkey.

Image 3 of 8True - Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary: The 25-year-old British rapper was one of the first Britons to join Daesh in Syria. London-raised and the son of a suspected Osama bin Laden affiliate, Bary can be seen in pre-Daesh days rapping about a difficult life in the UK. But this month, reports emerged he had defected and was trying to flee to Turkey.

4

False - Zayn Malik of One Direction: When Malik split from the boy band, fans poured out with levels of devastation that kind of shocked the world. Amid this chaos, a theory emerged that he had joined Daesh. In reality, Malik was working with ex-Apprentice star Nurun Ahmed trying to deter East London teenage girls from being lured to Syria.

Image 4 of 8False - Zayn Malik of One Direction: When Malik split from the boy band, fans poured out with levels of devastation that kind of shocked the world. Amid this chaos, a theory emerged that he had joined Daesh. In reality, Malik was working with ex-Apprentice star Nurun Ahmed trying to deter East London teenage girls from being lured to Syria.

5

Unconfirmed - Lassana Diarra: The 29-year-old Arsenal footballer appeared masked in 2014 swinging an AK-47 in some of Daesh propaganda videos. But days after initial reports, the footballer’s lawyer denied the claims, saying Diarra had “never set foot in the war-torn country.” At the time, he was playing football for Locomotiv Moscow.

Image 5 of 8Unconfirmed - Lassana Diarra: The 29-year-old Arsenal footballer appeared masked in 2014 swinging an AK-47 in some of Daesh propaganda videos. But days after initial reports, the footballer’s lawyer denied the claims, saying Diarra had “never set foot in the war-torn country.” At the time, he was playing football for Locomotiv Moscow.

6

True - Sharky Jama: The 25-year old Australian model and DJ told his parents he was going camping last year before boarding a plane to Fallujah, Iraq to join Daesh. There, reports said he worked as a cook, medic and machine gun operator until last April, when his parents said they were alerted to his death via text message.

Image 6 of 8True - Sharky Jama: The 25-year old Australian model and DJ told his parents he was going camping last year before boarding a plane to Fallujah, Iraq to join Daesh. There, reports said he worked as a cook, medic and machine gun operator until last April, when his parents said they were alerted to his death via text message.

7

True - Abu Saif: This Belgian-born chef set off for Syria two years ago to fight with al-Qaeda after being moved by the violent crackdown of President Bashar al-Assad. He told NBC that by 2014 he had been ready to leave the battlefield until Daesh’s lightning offensive in northern Iraq last summer convinced him to join their ranks instead.

Image 7 of 8True - Abu Saif: This Belgian-born chef set off for Syria two years ago to fight with al-Qaeda after being moved by the violent crackdown of President Bashar al-Assad. He told NBC that by 2014 he had been ready to leave the battlefield until Daesh’s lightning offensive in northern Iraq last summer convinced him to join their ranks instead.

8

False - Macklemore: Ahh, when Twitter goes awry. In February, the rapper’s account had this troll tweet: “33 couples got married today during Same Love. Amazing to be apart of that moment. Just kidding b*tch. I’m in ISIS now.” Even apart from the misuse of ‘apart,’ it’s an obvious troll post. But hey, the Internet is a gullible beast.

Image 8 of 8False - Macklemore: Ahh, when Twitter goes awry. In February, the rapper’s account had this troll tweet: “33 couples got married today during Same Love. Amazing to be apart of that moment. Just kidding b*tch. I’m in ISIS now.” Even apart from the misuse of ‘apart,’ it’s an obvious troll post. But hey, the Internet is a gullible beast.

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By now it’s pretty clear this is a very real phenomenon — reports indicate over 3,000 Westerners have joined Daesh ranks so far. And it's one researchers and journalists have been trying to get to the root of ever since. But we don’t always get it right. In fact sometimes, we get it totally wrong.

Check out our roundup of the real and fake high-profile Daesh recruits.

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