Bildet: Det ble ikke noen sluttkamp om Raqqa. Etter intens bombing fra amerikanerne ba IS om forhandlinger og de fikk unnslippe med sine familier og våpen. Avtalen er først nå kommet for dagen. Foto: Erik de Castro/Reuters/Scanpix

Koalisjonen som inntok Raqqa inngikk en avtale med IS som lot de forlate byen sammen med sine familier og våpen, uten kamp. Det sparte mange liv, men utgjør en trussel i fremtiden.

Sjåførene ble forespeilet maksimum en seks timers tur med et par hundre mennesker. I virkeligheten viste det seg å ta tre dager og omfatte 4.000 mennesker.

Syrian Defence Forces sa offisielt at bare noen få IS-krigere hadde lykkes å rømme. Dette var en stor fet løgn. En sjåfør forteller:

We took out around 4,000 people including women and children – our vehicle and their vehicles combined. When we entered Raqqa, we thought there were 200 people to collect. In my vehicle alone, I took 112 people.

Sjåførene BBC treffer er forbannet. De ble lovet gull og grønne skoger, men da det kom til stykket ble de ikke betalt. Og lastebilene knakk sammen under vekten av tunge våpen.

Another driver says the convoy was six to seven kilometres long. It included almost 50 trucks, 13 buses and more than 100 of the Islamic State group’s own vehicles. IS fighters, their faces covered, sat defiantly on top of some of the vehicles.

Footage secretly filmed and passed to us shows lorries towing trailers crammed with armed men. Despite an agreement to take only personal weapons, IS fighters took everything they could carry. Ten trucks were loaded with weapons and ammunition.

This wasn’t so much an evacuation – it was the exodus of so-called Islamic State.

The SDF didn’t want the retreat from Raqqa to look like an escape to victory. No flags or banners would be allowed to be flown from the convoy as it left the city, the deal stipulated.

Forsvarsminister John Mattis sa i mai at krigen mot IS var en utslettelseskrig. Ingen skulle komme unna. Man sa at ingen av de utenlandske krigerne skulle unnslippe. Men virkeligheten ble noe annet.

En sjåfør forteller

«There was a huge number of foreigners. France, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Yemen, Saudi, China, Tunisia, Egypt…”

En vestlig offiser var til stede, utrolig lite, og han sier de ikke kunne blande seg inn i avtalene som ble inngått. Det var tross alt syrerne som døde.

In light of the BBC investigation, the coalition now admits the part it played in the deal. Some 250 IS fighters were allowed to leave Raqqa, with 3,500 of their family members.

“We didn’t want anyone to leave,” says Col Ryan Dillon, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the Western coalition against IS.

“But this goes to the heart of our strategy, ‘by, with and through’ local leaders on the ground. It comes down to Syrians – they are the ones fighting and dying, they get to make the decisions regarding operations,” he says.

While a Western officer was present for the negotiations, they didn’t take an “active part” in the discussions. Col Dillon maintains, though, that only four foreign fighters left and they are now in SDF custody.

Det er et ganske stort sprang mellom fire og 250.

IS-krigerne opptrådte ikke som de var slått. Tvertimot. De mishandlet sjåførene som reddet dem.

Underneath, there are burns on his skin. “Look what they did here,” he says.

According to Abu Fawzi, there were three or four foreigners with each driver. They would beat him and call him names, such as “infidel”, or “pig”.

They might have been helping the fighters escape, but the Arab drivers were abused the entire route, they say. And threatened.

“They said, ‘Let us know when you rebuild Raqqa – we will come back,’” says Abu Fawzi. “They were defiant and didn’t care. They accused us of kicking them out of Raqqa.”

A female foreign fighter threatened him with her AK-47.

Droner fulgte kolonnen hele veien.

» the last of the convoy were about to cross, a US jet flew very low and deployed flares to light up the area. IS fighters shat their pants.”

Amerikanerne kunne ha utselttet kolonnen, men unnlot å gjøre det.

Smuglerne som tar folk over grensen til Tyrkia opplever en booming bussiness:

The men who cut fences, climb walls and run through the tunnels out of Syria are reporting a big increase in people fleeing. The collapse of the caliphate is good for business.

“In the past couple of weeks, we’ve had lots of families leaving Raqqa and wanting to leave for Turkey. This week alone, I personally oversaw the smuggling of 20 families,” says Imad, a smuggler on the Turkish-Syrian border.

“Most were foreign but there were Syrians as well.”

He now charges $600 (£460) per person and a minimum of $1,500 for a family.

In this business, clients don’t take kindly to inquiries. But Imad says he’s had “French, Europeans, Chechens, Uzbek”.

“Some were talking in French, others in English, others in some foreign language,” he says.

Walid, another smuggler on a different stretch of the Turkish border, tells the same story.

“We had an influx of families over the past few weeks,” he says. “There were some large families crossing. Our job is to smuggle them through. We’ve had a lot of foreign families using our services.”

Vi får høre at IS er helt på hælene, at lederne rømmer og at alt er tapt. Men virkeligheten er noe annet:

However, Walid says it’s a different situation for senior IS figures.

“Those highly placed foreigners have their own networks of smugglers. It’s usually the same people who organised their access to Syria. They co-ordinate with one another.”

Når man leser den gjennomarbeidede BBC-artikkelen lurer man på om sikkerhetstiltakene i Oslo og på steder som OSL den siste tiden har noe med de hjemvendte krigerne å gjøre.@

En fransk IS-kriger, Abu Basir al-Faransy, rømte til Idlib. Han forteller at han var del av en gruppe som utelukkende besto av franskmenn. Disse fikk et spesialoppdrag: Dra hjem og hevn det som har skjedd her.

He was part of an almost exclusively French group within IS, and before he left some of his fellow fighters were given a new mission.

There are some French brothers from our group who left for France to carry out attacks in what would be called a ‘day of reckoning.’”

BBC har gjort litt av et kupp med denne reportasjen. Offisielt heter det at antallet som unnskap var lite:

The numbers leaving were much higher than local tribal elders admitted. At first the coalition refused to admit the extent of the deal.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, somewhat improbably, continue to maintain that no deal was done.

Motivet for å la IS-krigerne unnslippe gjaldt forholdet mellom de kurdiske krigerne og deres forhold til lokale arabere.

Da amerikanerne intensiverte bombingen av Raqqa fikk selv IS-krigerne panikk. En bombe traff et hus hvor 35 familier bodde. De ble pulverisert. Det hadde vært gjort flere forhandlingsfremstøt. Nå ville IS forhandle.

Det var altså kurdere som satte forholdet til lokale innbyggere høyere enn det å utslette IS.

Det er ingenting som tyder på at IS har lagt ned våpnene. Mange av dem kan ha kommet til Vesten.