First Western journalist given access to ISIS ‘caliphate’ returns

Todenhöfer claimed in an interview that the group is ‘much stronger and much more dangerous’ than the West believes

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The first-ever Western journalist to be given access to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) self-declared “caliphate” has returned home.

After months of negotiations with the militants on internet telephony provider Skype, German journalist Jürgen Todenhöfer, 74, began his journey to ISIS-held territory through Turkey to the Iraq's second largest city of Mosul, which ISIS conquered in June.

Todenhöfer - who is planning to publish a summary entitled “10 days in the Islamic State” on Monday - claimed that the group is “much stronger and much more dangerous” than the West realizes.

During his time spent in ISIS-held territory, Todenhofer described to German news website Der Tz an atmosphere of “almost ecstatic enthusiasm that I have never encountered in any other warzone,” with “hundreds of willing [foreign] fighters” arriving every day.

Todenhöfer said that it would be difficult for the U.S.-led coalition to defeat the militants with airstrikes, due to conditions on the ground. ISIS fighters are so spread out around the territory they hold, that the airstrikes “would have to reduce the whole of Mosul to ruins,” to succeed.

In a post on his Facebook page, Todenhöfer said that “ignorance must remain not the sad hallmark of the West’s Middle East policy. Whoever wants to defeat his enemies should know them.”

ISIS militants – who have demolished Shiite mosques and shrines and have destroyed Christian churches - believes that “all religions who agree with democracy have to die.” Todenhöfer told German TV channel RTL.

“This is the largest religious cleansing strategy that has ever been planned in human history,” he added.

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