Counter-terrorism experts in Germany and other countries are studying tens of thousands of data files allegedly stolen from the Islamic State group. They are said to contain detailed personal information about terrorist recruits.

Britain's Sky News said it acquired the information from a disillusioned Islamic State defector who told a reporter in Turkey that he stole a memory stick from the head of Islamic State's internal security. The files are believed to hold information about more than 22,000 of the group's members, recruits and sympathizers.

Germany's interior minister, Thomas de Maiziere, said the revelation could help track down militants wherever they are working and lead to their prosecution.

Reports from Britain, Germany and Syria say the files contain information about jihadists from 51 countries, including 23 questions Islamic State recruits must answer before they can be accepted as members of the extremist organization.

'Absolute goldmine'

Sky News quoted a former counter-terrorism chief of Britain's MI-6 Secret Intelligence Service, Richard Barrett, who said the stolen IS files appear to be "an absolute gold mine of information of enormous significance."

Not all analysts are convinced the files are genuine, but if they are, they could help identify potential attackers and the networks of sympathizers that support them, and provide government investigators with insights into the terror group's structure and plans.

A spokeswoman for British Prime Minister David Cameron, using an alternative name for Islamic State, told reporters Thursday: "What's important now is that the authorities can look at how this information can be used in the fight against Daesh. And if it can, then we welcome that."

A spokesman for Germany's Federal Criminal Police told The Associated Press, "We believe there is a high probability that these documents are genuine." Some terrorism experts, however, urged caution and said the IS files possibly were forgeries, since they contain inconsistencies and unusual phrasing.

One analyst told VOA the Islamic State files, if they are verified, would be of "immense value" to Western governments.

The loss of so much data could be pivotal for Islamic State, which has been coming under increased pressure on numerous fronts.

‘Pretty comprehensive’

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the way in which the Islamic State files were acquired - by a disaffected member of the group - "is a good analogy" to the work of former U.S. intelligence worker Edward Snowden, who copied enormous quantities of secret documents from the National Security Agency and delivered them to the "whistleblower" group WikiLeaks three years ago.

“It’s a pretty comprehensive list of foreign fighters" who have joined or tried to join Islamic State, Gartenstein-Ross said, "one that will be very useful in understanding the dynamics of their network, and one that’s certainly going to be of immense value.”

In terms of the type of data that was exposed, Gartenstein-Ross said, the Islamic State files are more the equivalent of "the OPM hack" - the theft from U.S. government computers of personal data supplied by 21.5 million Americans, including some who had applied for government security clearances. The 2015 data breach at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is still under investigation, U.S. officials have said.

Media reports said the stolen IS files came from a man calling himself Abu Hamed, said to be a former member of the Free Syrian Army. The FSA, which has been supported by Western and Arab governments in its fight against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was founded by officers and soldiers who deserted from the Damascus regime.

Abu Hamed said he abandoned the FSA and switched his allegiance to Islamic State, but eventually turned away from the terror group - because, he said, it had departed from Islamist values and is now being led by Iraqis formerly loyal to that country's dictator Saddam Hussein.

Those who have seen the stolen data say much of it consists of enrollment forms with the names of Islamic State recruits, their supporters, telephone numbers and addresses and other information including their particular skills and personal references.

The recruits also were required to list their marital status, blood type and education level as well as "previous jihad experience" and their preferences for future jobs, either as fighter or suicide attacker ("martyr").

One Australian recruit is said to have written that he was willing to be a suicide attacker but that his short-sightedness and limited driving skills might be a factor. Another recruit who wrote that he suffered from severe headaches offered his services for an immediate suicide mission.

Signs of ‘fraying’

The loss of so much data could be pivotal for Islamic State, which has been coming under increased pressure on numerous fronts.

The payoff for the U.S. and its coalition allies may not be immediate. But Islamic State’s enemies, including countries like Iran, the Assad regime and rival groups like Jabhat al Nusra will be studying the data to map out Islamic State’s operations and weak spots.

"We think about states of vulnerability in terms of information that states want to keep secret,” Gartenstein-Ross told VOA. "Non-state actors - especially when they’re bureaucratic like [Islamic State], also have that same issue.”

And while this Islamic State data breach is not the first suffered by the terror group, analysts and officials say it does lend more credence to the idea Islamic State may be succumbing to the pressure.

“Even within Mosul, which they still do control we’ve seen signs that they are fraying from within,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters Wednesday. "The success we’ve had with our airstrikes, with our oil strikes (raids on IS-held oil facilities), is causing them great difficulty in paying their own people.”

"That is causing desertions. It is causing loss of morale. It is causing there to be cases of insubordination,” he added.

U.S. Army Colonel Steve Warren, spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State, said the information could identify and track down IS's foreign fighter networks.

Warren told the AP he was not able to verify the documents, but that he hoped they would be widely available to law-enforcement agencies.

"This would allow the law enforcement apparatus across the world to become much more engaged and begin to help do what we can to stem this flow of foreign fighters," Warren said. "So we're hopeful that it's accurate, and if so, we certainly plan to do everything we can to help."

Thousands of Stolen 'IS Files' Could Unmask Terrorists