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Foreign Fighters in Iraq, Syria More Than Doubled in 16 Months

Estimates Put Foreign Fighters at 27,000 to 31,000

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by Jason Ditz

Roughly spanning the period since the US launched its war against ISIS, the number of foreign Islamist fighters who’ve flocked to Iraq and Syria has far more than doubled from June 2014, providing a huge influx of new fighters for ISIS and other groups.

In June 2014, the estimate was about 12,000 foreign fighters, a huge figure in its own right. The new report now believes the figure is from 27,000 to 31,000, meaning the “more than doubled” assessment of the report is putting it mildly.

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The report estimates 6,000 fighters from Tunisia, 2,500 Saudis, 2,400 Russians, 2,100 from Turkey, and 2,000 from Jordan. The European Union member nations in general come to about 5,000, with France the largest at 1,800.

While across the Eastern Hemisphere the recruitment for foreign fighters is soaring, particularly in Europe and Northern Africa, the report says the North American figures are mostly flat, with 150 from the US and 130 from Canada.

The big concern is that an estimated 20% or 30% of these fighters are returning to their western countries of origin, meaning these countries will all be coping with significant influxes of now-seasoned fighters with international contacts.

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