Johannesburg: Eleven "disillusioned" Islamic State recruits from South Africa's Indian Muslim community have returned home from Syria, with another five expected to return within the next few weeks.
The return of the group followed intensive efforts by the brother of a young woman who had left home with her husband, allegedly to take up a new position with a telecommunications firm in Abu Dhabi.
But after discovering his brother-in-law's name on a social media list of South African ideas recruits, the brother contacted law enforcement agencies and spent all his free time in trying to bring his sister back.
After making contact with his sister, stories emerged of unhappiness amongst the South African recruits about life in ISIS-held territory in Syria, contrary to what they had been promised in recruitment propaganda.
Na'eem Jinnah, executive director of the Afro-Middle East Centre in South Africa, said 50 South Africans had travelled to Syria to join ISIS in the past 18 months, some of whom had returned after they were disillusioned about the promises made by the dreaded terrorist group.
But despite the brother's claims to the weekly City Press, an attorney representing the group denied that they had gone to Syria to settle there or to fight alongside IS.
"They were there to do aid work in Syria. They went to Turkey in order to return to South Africa," Yousha Tayob told the weekly.
South African State Security Agency spokesman Brian Dube confirmed the return of the group, who were extensively debriefed at the airport here before they were allowed to go to their homes.
Dube said South Africans were free to travel anywhere in the world, but those travelling to the Middle East were screened to ensure that they were not exposed to ISIS.
"People travel to that region for a number of reasons, whether it be business, religion or humanitarian grounds. As part of our ongoing operations, following the story of the 15-year-old girl who we intercepted and stopped from travelling there (a few months ago), we screen people travel to that region just to make sure they have not been exposed to elements associated with Islamic State," Dube said.