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German journalist gains exclusive access to the Islamic State

Jurgen Todenhofer, the first western journalist to observe IS from up close and personal, reveals to media what he saw
Peshmerga fighters arrive in the Sinjar district of Mosul, to fight against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, in Iraq on 19 December, 2014 (AA)

Jurgen Todenhofer, a German journalist and writer, is back in his country after spending time with fighters from the Islamic State (IS) in the Iraqi city of Mosul.

The 74 year old is the first western journalist that was granted permission by IS to have access to the group, after months of negotiation with the leaders.

Speaking to the German media, Todenhofer revealed snippets of what he saw during his stay with ISIS.

"ISIS is much stronger than we think here," he said, adding that the group has dimensions larger than the UK. They are supported by "an almost ecstatic enthusiasm that I have never encountered in any warzone."

Todenhofer is planning on writing a book summarizing his experience during the 10 days he spent with IS, but has disclosed some insights about the fighters’ lives, such as where they sleep and the type of weaponry they are using.

The fighters, who number 5000 and are spread out across the city of Mosul, sleep in barracks formed from "the shells of bombed-out houses."  

The fact that the fighters are not centralised in one area, and that hundreds of "willing fighters arrive from all over the world," led Todenhofer to conclude that IS cannot be overcome by western intervention or airstrikes.

"With every bomb that is dropped and hits a civilian, the number of terrorists increases," he said.

The only people that can stop the destructive force of IS, according to the journalist, are the moderate Iraqi Sunnis.

Todenhöfer said IS has "social welfare", a "school system", and was surprised to learn that the group has plans to provide education to girls.

"If you want to defeat an opponent, you must know him," Todenhofer surmised.