Disarmed but not defused
TANGIER, Morocco — The phone had nearly stopped ringing by the time Mariam dared to answer. The number was unusual, American, she thought. Did someone know what had happened to him? She was starting to shake, unsure she could bear the news.
It had been 3½ years since Mariam’s son Othman had turned into a person she said she barely recognized. A year since his letter from Syria, where he had journeyed along with thousands of other foreign fighters to join the Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate. Eight months since a letter from the Red Cross with a red-inked stamp declaring him “safe and well” in custody.
But since then — silence. Dramatic battles had raged as the Islamic State fought fruitlessly to salvage its ruthless reign; she knew that. She also knew hundreds had died.
AFTER THE CALIPHATE: This is part of a series about the perilous aftermath of the Islamic State, which fell in March, and the militant group’s prospects for revival. Part one: Castaway from the Islamic State Part two: ISIS at a crossroads