LONDON — The foreign fighters presence in the Sunni revolt in Syria has reached as many as 11,000, a report said.
The International Center for the Study of Radicalization estimated that between 3,300 and 11,000 foreigners have joined the Sunni revolt against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad
“We estimate that — from late 2011 to 10 December 2013 — between 3,300 and 11,000 individuals have gone to Syria to fight against the Assad government,” the report said. “These figures include those who are currently present [in Syria] as well as those who have since returned home, been arrested or killed.”
The report, based on 1,500 sources, said Arabs and Europeans comprised up to 80 percent the foreign fighters in Syria. The center also cited Islamist recruits from Africa, Canada, the United States, the former Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union.
“Individuals from Middle Eastern countries continue to represent the majority of foreign fighters — around 70 percent,” the report said. “We estimate that up to 6,774 non-Syrian Arabs and an additional 523 non-Arabs from the [wider] region have gone to Syria.”
The report said many of the foreign fighters joined Al Qaida’s
Islamic State of Iraq and Levant as well as the Nusra Front for the Defense of the Levant. Both militias were said to control much of northern Syria.
“Only about 20 percent of the sources stated group affiliations,” the report said. “Of those, the vast majority are with Jabhat Al Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham — the two militant opposition groups that are closest to Al Qaida. To a much lesser extent, fighters were also
reported to be members of Jaysh Al Muhajirin wa-l-Ansar, Harakat Ahrar Al Sham Al Islamiyya, Katibat Suqur Al Izz, Liwa Al Umma, and Harakat Sham Al Islam, among others.”
The European element in the Sunni revolt was said to have intensified in 2013 amid the deepening intervention by Iran and its Shi’ite proxies from Iraq and Lebanon. The report estimated a three-fold increase in EU nationals from April 2013, with the largest contributions from Britain and France.
“This may have reinforced and strengthened the perception among some Sunnis that the conflict is fundamentally sectarian, and that Sunnis need to stand together in order to halt the [Shi’ite] enemy’s advance,” the report,
released on Dec. 17, said.
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