A group of British Islamists affiliated with Islamic State (IS) in Syria has grown so disillusioned with fighting that they are seeking ways to return home without being subjected to stiff jail sentences when they return, it has been reported.
A British jihadist claiming to represent 30 fellow nationals said they were increasingly frustrated at fighting against other rebel groups, having originally arrived in Syria to fight the regime of Bashar al-Assad instead.
He told researchers that they are willing to give up their arms and restart their lives in the UK but feared long prison sentences, The Times reported.
"We came to fight the regime and instead we are involved in gang warfare. It's not what we came for but if we go back [to Britain] we will go to jail," the man told researchers from the International Centre for Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR) at King's College London, via social media.
"Right now we are being forced to fight — what option do we have?"
The militant said the 30 were willing to undergo deradicalisation programmes and submit to surveillance if they were allowed back.
News of the disillusionment was confirmed by an anonymous Isis spokesperson, who told IBTimes UK that "not all, but some" of the British fighters want to return home.
At least 500 Britons are believed to have joined the fighting in Syria's civil war over the last two years, with an estimated 20 thought to have died, including six in clashes with other rebels.
The 30 who have expressed the desire to return to the UK are affiliated with IS -- previously known as Isis -- the jihadist group that recently beheaded two US journalists and are threatening to do the same to a British aid worker.
IS in entangled in a bitter war with the government and rival rebel groups, including al-Qaeda's affiliate al-Nusra Front, for control of parts of Syria.
Some Jihadists have expressed concern that death in fighting against fellow Islamists might not qualify as martyrdom, thus forfeiting their chances for an afterlife in paradise.
Peter Neumann, the director of ICSR, said the British government should consider setting up a deradicalisation program for repentant, less-hardened jihadists, suggesting they could become powerful spokesmen against IS propaganda.
"The people we have been talking to... want to quit but feel trapped because all the government is talking about is locking them up for 30 years," Neumann told The Times.
"If you only have a law-and-order message than you risk creating a self-fulfilling prophecy where they simply go to the next battlefront and become really hardened extremists."